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True Hospice Story **

I parked my white Prius in the gravel driveway and looked around.  “Since when are there cornfields in this area of California?” I wondered.

I walked up to the faded and windblown farmhouse and knocked on the screen door.  There was no immediate answer so I took a moment to look around.  It was beautiful out here.  Quiet.  It was late afternoon, the sun was shining, there was a nice breeze.  I knocked again.

A heavyset woman in a dingy white nightgown came and peered at me through the screen door.  “Hi, I’m Gina, here from hospice?”  She nodded and opened the door.

I followed the woman into the living room.  Despite there being a large front window, the curtains were closed, so there was very little daylight coming through them.  The room was small and dim.  I could make out a hospital bed and when my eyes got used to the dark, saw an elderly woman laying in it.

The woman in the bed had wet, ragged respirations.  “You told the triage nurse she’s been doing this all day?” I asked the woman who had let me in.  She wearily looked at me and nodded.  “Do you have any of the medicine left?”  She shook her head no.  I looked back to the woman in the bed, …. what the heck?  She was now laying on her stomach, her back bare.  How did she do that?

I was a little confused, but got back to the issue at hand.  “She definitely needs the medicine.  How long has it been since she took any?”  The woman shrugged.  “Okay,” I said, “I can call some medicine in.  Are you able to pick it up in town at the pharmacy?”  Before the woman could respond, a man appeared in the doorway.  He said, “Oh yeah, we can pick it up.  We have a whole bunch of errands to run.  So you’ll stay here with her” – he jerked his thumb towards the woman in the bed – “and we’ll just take your car.  Be back soon.”  He smiled sort of eerily.


“Well, actually, sir, I can’t just stay here with her; I have other visits to make.  And you can’t take my car….”  I instinctively glanced out the front window to look at my car parked in the driveway.  Hadn’t the curtains just been closed?  Well, now they were open and I could see the car just fine – enough, in fact, to notice that the door to the gas tank was open.

“Well you’re the nurse, and you need to stay with her.  And we need to get that medicine.  So yeah, you’ll stay here and we’ll just be gone for a little bit.”

I started towards the door.  “No, that isn’t going to hap-” At that moment, a teenaged boy came into the room grinning from ear to ear.

“Hey thanks for the gas, lady.  The tank in my car has been empty for MONTHS.  Now I can leave!!”

I’m not sure what happened next, but the next thing I knew, I was speeding down the road in my white Prius, gas light blinking, thinking that I was going to be leaving one heck of a voicemail for the team soon…

** In that it’s true that I really dreamt it :)  I guess this is the new hospice nurse’s version of an anxiety dream?  Instead of merely dreaming about showing up at a patient’s house without supplies, I dream about almost having my car accosted by the patient’s family!

I’ve been at this new job for a month so far.  It’s going pretty well.  I’m almost off orientation, actually.  It’s a much different world and it’s taken some getting used to.  I abhor being the new girl and not knowing things, you know?  I don’t know how traveling nurses do it, actually.   You have to figure out new computer systems, new paperwork, the way each doctor likes to have things done.  About half of our patients are in their homes, and half are in facilities.  And each facility has to have things done in their own way, so it’s a lot to learn.  I’m looking forward to getting more comfortable with the nuts & bolts.

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Word. I am about 8 months in to my new hospice position after being a hospital tele nurse, and I am just starting to get comfortable with the nuts & bolts. Being a nurse is the easy part – figuring out where to find the current MAR at a SNF is not! :)

[...] A chilling short story is at Code Blog.  Good stuff! [...]

welcome to home care! you see folks as they really are, and your anxiety dream makes a lot of sense for someone new to community care. Trust your own instincts about safety – whatever that body message is that says OHOH, get outta here – is valid, and it is better to overreact than underreact. And DO talk to more experienced staff about these issues, their stories will help you develop your own instincts. I love caring for people at home, they are REAL so when you make a difference you know it will not be forgotten.

Can’t wait to read about your hospice experiences! Withdrawal and end-of-life care are my very favorites, even though I’m in critical care. Maybe someday I will make the leap to hospice!

I, too, plan to make the leap someday when I am *experienced* enough …I am really enjoying your honest reflections about what to expect! Thanks geeners.

Good Write-Up, Thanks!

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  • profileI am Gina. I have been a nurse for 15 years, first in med/surg, then CVICU, inpatient dialysis, CCU and now hospice. This blog is about my experiences as a nurse, and the experiences of others in the healthcare system - patients, nurses, doctors, paramedics. We all have stories!

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