“Singers sing, painters paint, and I am a hospice aide and I care.
I love it. It is what I do… It is what I have to do.”
Terry, a hospice aide
October is the month to celebrate personal support workers1 in several provinces in Canada. In the US, the contributions of hospice aides and certified nursing assistants are celebrated in November.
At Life and Death Matters, we join with health care teams and members of the public across North America to celebrate and give thanks to the incredible people who serve in these caregiving roles. I would like to take a few moments to talk about the many reasons to celebrate front-line health care workers.
I have interviewed hospice aides over the past month as I prepare for an NHPCO webinar series for hospice aides. Several interviews had to be postponed as the hospice aides evacuated people before Hurricane Irma hit Florida, or when wildfires spread in California. Another time the call needed to be rescheduled because the hospice aide was working in a remote area without cell phone reception. In the interviews I repeatedly heard stories of connections between the hospice aide and the person and family, stories of caring, stories about letters written by bereaved family members that expressed gratitude for the personalized support, and the ability of the hospice aide to adapt care to best meet the needs of the person and the family. These examples reinforce for me that front-line caregivers are pillars of support that the person, family, and health care team can depend upon.
I wrote a blog post about a study of the experiences of front-line caregivers in Ireland. I was delighted to hear stories that showcased similar experiences of hospice aides in the USA. Hospice aides, in their rather straightforward manner, shared a few stories and examples of how they work with the person and with the team. For example, I’ve heard repeatedly about a time when a hospice aide shared their concern about a person they were assigned to. How they formulated a report that shared their observations, the questions they asked, and then called the nurse supervisor. In each case, the nurse responded in a short period of time, and followed up on the hospice aide’s concerns by contacting the appropriate member of the team. In one case, the nurse called the physician to report pain and request an increase in pain medication. The nurse supervisor also visited the person when necessary.
In each story, the hospice aide initiated changes in care, and then adapted their care to best meet the needs of the person.
These stories and reports of events impressed me.
In the past weeks I have talked with several directors of care and nurse leaders at hospice organizations in California. In each hospice, the hospice aides were invited and contributed to interdisciplinary team meetings, and participated in education. For some hospices, the meetings occurred by teleconference, with members of smaller teams meeting at set times each week. For other hospices, the ENTIRE team gathered in one room, where deaths were reviewed, “what went well” was discussed, thank-you cards were read, cases were reviewed and care plans updated, and attendees were educated in the moment. I was impressed! The hospice aides participated alongside the physician, nurses, social workers, counselors, and therapists. These front-line caregivers are valued for their commitment, their caregiving, and are fully accepted members of the health care team.
Following this meeting I interviewed two hospice aides. In one interview, Terry, who previously worked with oil pipelines as well as other physically demanding jobs, shared with me about coming to hospice later in life. It is her quote that appears at the beginning of this posting,
“Singers sing, painters paint, and I am a hospice aide and I care. I love it.
It is what I do… It is what I have to do.”
To all those front-line health care workers, whatever your title, THANK YOU for caring. Thank you for the work you do. You are incredible! Your work is valuable.
- AKA personal support workers, health care workers, health care assistants, continuing care assistants, nursing assistants, nurse’s aides.