Flexibility and Compassion Core to Serving as Hospice Nurse

A “typical day” in the life of a hospice nurse?

Well, that’s a tough one. Because arguably, it doesn’t exist.

Just ask Rachel Baxter, a registered nurse with Emmanuel Hospice, who is greeted every workday by a schedule that is anything but typical.

What every day does guarantee, however, is that as an ambassador for hospice, she will be challenged to provide top-notch care and treat every patient like they’re her only one.

“You learn to expect the unexpected,” says Baxter, a healthcare provider the better part of a decade. “Often, I make a plan first thing in the morning that looks great on paper, but with a single text or phone call, everything can change, which requires me to be flexible.

“It’s what you do when you’re trying to make every moment count for every patient to whom you’re providing care.”

Serving as a hospice nurse demands you remain nimble during the workday, looking for opportunities to tap into an array of services a hospice care provider like Emmanuel offers. When caring for patients, Emmanuel Hospice draws on a holistic approach that focuses on mind, body and spirit.

“I rely on a very talented team of providers,” Baxter says, taking her cues from other Emmanuel Hospice practitioners and therapists who specialize in areas from pain management to playing music to providing medical massages.

“We differentiate ourselves in that way,” she says. “It’s what sets us apart, and makes us especially capable of helping our clients along on their journey.”

The interdisciplinary team is all about collaboration and communication, sharing resources, skills and expertise to deliver care with compassion and ensure all needs are met.

“I put my absolute trust in judgment and knowledge of my co-workers,” she says. “We all see different things, and it’s vital we share that information because it’s in the best interest of the patient and that patient’s family.”

This extends in varied ways especially when serving a patient in the privacy of their home, which can contrast markedly from treating someone in a facility.

“When you’re in someone’s home, it can begin to feel like your own,” Baxter says. “You might be there often with a spouse or other members of the family. You begin to see rhythms and patterns, and you adapt and adjust to those. You become acutely aware of the sights, sounds and other elements important to your patient.”

Baxter might see three patients in a workday or as many as six or seven. While she might serve anyone within Emmanuel Hospice’s service area, she primarily sees patients near the lakeshore before returning to her own home in Zeeland. She appreciates the flexibility of her schedule, which allows her to enjoy her surroundings and read or crochet during breaks.

While the care she provides can change from patient to patient, there is always one constant: “I’m focusing on every precious moment my patient has left. I want to be calm and confident, warm and reassuring. How do you feel? What can I do? How do you want to live?

“Living life to the fullest – no matter the time left – is what we’re all about.”

For more information about hospice care, visit EmmanuelHospice.org

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