A day in the life of a Hospice nurse


Today I said goodbye to a beautiful soul, who was once such a vibrant young woman. A mum of two young children who have not yet been in this world long enough to have developed any memories of their mum. A wife who adored her husband so much so that she lovingly told him that he is too good to be alone and that one day he needs to find another soul mate. I see a husband sitting in an almost shocked-like state, staring with tears running down his cheeks. He could not speak; I see friends and extended family all crying while trying to comfort each other.

I remind myself of my role, I am the professional, but I could not stop the tears rolling down my cheeks, and that’s ok. I hugged the family while they sobbed in my arms. I had no words that could provide comfort at this time.

I leave there and go to a man who is desperately lonely. He speaks of his time when he was working, the strong man that he once was, not wanting to discuss the frail man that he has now become. He lives alone and he is not safe doing so. He refuses to accept help. He is desperately trying to hold onto the independent man that he used to be.

On my next visit, I was confronted by an angry woman, she is angry about her Mum’s illness and the prognosis ahead. I remind myself to stop and not react to her hurtful words. I breathe and let her speak, understanding that she needs to be heard. I remind myself that she will be exhausted and highly stressed, after all, she is watching her mum’s life fade away in front of her eyes. She knows time is short and her mum was her rock, her confidant. I need to calm a highly volatile situation in a compassionate and empathetic way. This situation made ever more challenging as this was the first time, I had ever met these people.

I then go to a woman who is terrified of dying. She has a loving devoted husband and they have been married for sixty years. She is his life, his everything. There is no him or her but only them. He does not want to think, let alone talk about life without his beautiful bride. He has unrealistic ideals towards her situation and almost speaks as though she will get better and that we can fix her. I struggle to know how to best support them, while she must enter her final journey in this world. Before I leave, he relishes in showing me a photo of her in her younger years, with so many hopes and dreams ahead of her.

This was one small glimpse into my day and typical of a community Hospice nurse. As Hospice nurses we meet people at their most vulnerable. We are invited into their homes, into their world in such a personal way. We get to witness so much love and yet so much sadness. We understand that we can have a huge impact on the people we meet.

I learn from every visit I have, from every person I encounter, I learn about myself, and I learn about human frailty and resilience. I am so proud to be called a Hospice nurse.

- Kathryn Registered Nurse