Hospice is a Calling

by James Dibben, RN

Last Monday I took my first position as a Registered Nurse. I started at NorthCare Hospice and Palliative Care. I have had a lot of different jobs in my lifetime. Half of them are in the medical field, and the other half are spread across construction, printing, self employment and retail. At no time during the last 24 years did I feel like any of those jobs had any spiritual significance until last week.

Hospice was on my list for a couple of reasons. The first reason was simply the schedule. I’m a family man, and I have no desire for rotating twelve-hour shifts like nurses work in the hospital. The second reason was because I was really interested in work that was more relational in nature. So many nursing jobs are too fast paced. The goal is to get the patient in and out as quickly as possible. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with this type of medical career. Short hospital stays are an essential component to health care. I had decided that I just wanted something different.

Over the last few months I have shared my interest in hospice nursing with friends, family and coworkers. I have received a wide variety of responses. People who have no experience with hospice just say that it sounds like emotionally draining work. When I talk to someone who has first-hand experience with hospice they usually get emotional, start crying and share about family or friends who received services from hospice. When I talk to someone who works in hospice they get a smile on their face and simply say, “Hospice is more than a job. It’s a calling.”

After a week of orientation at NorthCare Hospice I understand the designation, “Calling.” Before last Monday I understood hospice to involve helping people die as comfortably as possible. After a week of general orientation I understand that hospice is so much more than that. Hospice doesn’t just focus on keeping patients comfortable, even though that is an important aspect of hospice care. No, hospice isn’t only about death. Hospice is also about life. Hospice is about helping patients function at the highest possible level during their last months of life. Hospice is about empowering people to identify what is most important to them and helping them engage their last days in a way that is the most fulfilling to them.

Hospice is a calling because I will be a pivotal figure in the final chapter of someone’s life. I will manage their overall care. I’m responsible to make sure that my clients are equipped with everything they need to live their final days with dignity. I will be a central figure in the lives of immediate family as well. I will have at my disposal a team of professionals whose only concern is the care and comfort of my client. We will leave no stone unturned to make sure that our clients and their immediate families feel the support they need to manage the most challenging time of their life. I have had a lot of jobs that I didn’t feel really mattered beyond providing for my family. For the first time in my life I feel like I will be doing something professionally that really makes a difference. For the first time in my life I feel like I will have a job that God has called me to do.

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