COVID-19 Through the Eyes of a Hospice Nurse
Infection prevention throughout the community is something VNA’s staff has always kept at the forefront of our minds, even before this outbreak began. This isn’t the first pandemic we’ve seen in our nearly 124 years, but this is the first one that has personally impacted my work.
As a hospice liaison, I would typically meet with patients and their families face-to-face in a hospital setting to talk about the option of enrolling in hospice support. Now, more and more of these conversations must occur over the phone while their family members are self-isolating, and I put the call on speaker at the patient’s bedside.
It’s been difficult not to offer physical comfort, whether it’s a handshake for a greeting, a pat on the back or a tissue when they start to tear up. These are some of the hardest conversations they’ll ever have, and social separation from their loved one makes it all the more heartbreaking.
We are screening patients for COVID-19 signs and exposure, along with the family or friends who may be caring for them in the environment when they discharge from the hospital. Many facilities, like nursing homes and assisted living facilities, have declined to accept new patients during this time. This limits discharge options for a patient to get out of the hospital sooner.
Many of these facilities are also limiting visits from families, friends and even hospice disciplines viewed as non-essential: chaplains, social workers, volunteers and bath aides. All these disciplines greatly enrich a patient’s quality of life and their hospice experience, so it’s been hard on our team when only a nurse is allowed to see and interact with the patient physically. Of course, we understand the necessity of limiting exposure to such vulnerable people, but it’s been a very emotionally taxing time.
Despite these challenges, there is still great communication between the hospice staff, the hospital staff, the patients and their families by checking in with calls or using a secured texting app to ensure everyone is on the same page and doing okay.
VNA has also developed a “COVID-19 Core Team” of staff who have bravely volunteered to be on the front lines of care. Our contingency plans ensure we are able to care for all those who need it, regardless of if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or have had high-risk exposure.
My heart goes out to our patients and their families. In one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, they’ve had to be the most strong. Our team is having to work harder than ever before, but knowing we are all in this together fosters companionship, camaraderie and generosity, which are some of the best parts of our human experience.
Cami Cain received her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree from Morningside College in Sioux City, IA in 2010. She worked in the hospital setting in Kearney, NE on an Oncology/Med floor her first 3 years as a new nurse, becoming certified in Chemotherapy and Bio-therapy Administration.
She became a Hospice RN Case Manager with VNA in 2013, where she managed patients in the home, assisted living, and long term care setting. She became a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse in 2016. Cami transitioned to the position as a Hospice Liaison with VNA in 2017, working primarily with patients and families at NE Med Center, Bellevue Med Center, Children’s Hospital, and Bergan/Creighton Hospital.
She is passionate about helping patients and families discover their living and dying goals and helping educate others about hospice benefits.
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