It was night time. I was at an in-patient hospice sitting at the nurses’ station when I received a phone call. The person on the other line informed me of someone’s death.
Although I was not told the name, I knew this person was close to me. So I got up from my seat and walked down the hallway. As I passed by a room, I saw a sight that delighted my heart. Through the half open door I saw a patient lying on the bed covered with a white sheet. Next to her in a comfortable chair was a nurse. This nurse was telling a story to this dying person.
I can’t describe the gratitude and joy I felt in my heart when I saw this. I remember thinking, “It's finally happening! People are finally telling stories to these people.”
As the time passed the meaning of my dream has become clear. I now know that one of my purposes is to raise awareness about the deeper issues of the heart and the soul (existential issues) at the time of change. These issues are more urgent and need our attention more than ever at the time of End of Life Transition.
Unfortunately, hospice practitioners are usually not trained in recognizing and addressing these issues. In addition, we are not given the extra time needed to help our clients with peaceful resolution of these issues.
Whether we are hospice nurses, hospice aids, social workers or Chaplin, the story is same for most of us. Those who understand these deeper issues struggle with lack of time to consistently provide this support.
Those who are still struggling with understanding these issues, the sadness, pain and suffering we carry is excruciating. We know in our hearts that something is missing. However, there is not much opportunity to explore the real reason.
No wonder so many of hospice practitioners either burn out quickly or create walls around themselves for protection. Neither one of these scenarios is healthy or helpful. Research shows that one of the main reasons for burn out is our inability to provide quality care to our patients.
An article in a 2007 issue of “Online Journal of Issues In Nursing” reported that nurses on a daily basis feel saddened, powerless discouraged and frightened by their inability to affect necessary change and provide quality care.
If hospice and palliative care professionals really want to be true to our calling, it behooves us to take action. We must demand for more training and more direct patient care time to effectively and consistently address both the physical and existential issues of our clients.
This way we will not only provide the care our clients deserve, we will also decrease burn out among the hospice practitioners. In turn, there will be increased staff retention and fewer call outs. As a result, companies will make more money and provide better care at the same time. This is a win-win situation for all the parties involved.
Not too long ago, Martin Luther King had a dream that is now true. Today, I am also dreaming a dream. Its an ambitious dream and I pray that soon this dream will come true too.
I have a dream that one day soon a home hospice care professional’s productivity is not determined just by the number of patients seen per day, as a lot of major hospices do. Instead, it is also determined by our success rate in transforming a difficult situation into a time of fond memories, peaceful closure and reconciliation.
I have a dream that soon no hospice client would have to unnecessarily linger on because of lack of closure. I look forward to a time when hospice professionals are well prepared to help clients with peaceful closure, forgiveness and permission.
I pray that one day the benchmark for effective hospice care would be our success in helping our clients resolves their existential issues.
I have a dream that soon the governing agencies will demand that hospices consistently train their staff to address these issues. I foresee a time when these governing agencies would evaluate the performance of each hospice based on their success with helping to address the existential issues their clients face.
I believe that my calling in this life is to put out a call for action and spread this dream to all End of Life Care Professionals. So,
I am calling out to all of you.
I pray that all of us will join hands and demand for more education and awareness of the existential issues that haunt our clients and their families. I hope that we would join hands and ask that our productivity is measured by how effective we are as a team in helping to resolve the existential issues for our clients.
The care of the dying is a noble calling. In my hospice career I have noticed that by the time most people get to a hospice, they feel like they have been abandoned by the medical community. At this time of intense need, hospice provides a much needed service. I am thankful to the companies and the professionals who have chosen to provide this care.
Hospice professionals are the expert in death and dying. Therefore, our clients look to us to help them through this intense physical, emotional and spiritual journey. For the most part, any help we provide to these people is received with much gratitude.
However, a lot of people are unaware of the reason for deep anguish and turmoil they feel at this time. Even if they do recognize some of the reasons for their distress, most are not able to resolve these issues on their own.
As experts in the realm of End of Life care, we are obligated to consistently identify and help resolve both the physical as well as the existential issues that cause suffering at this time.
Anything less than an unwavering commitment to the care of the dying in this holistic manner is a disservice to our clients, a disservice to our noble profession and weighs heavy on our conscience.
Yours in love and peace
Shahina Lakhani, RN, MSN, NLP Master Practitioner, Reunion Kinesiology Facilitator, Theta Healing Practitioner: Shahina has been a nurse for over 25 years. She has worked as an educator, Nurse Practitioner and a Hospice Nurse. Shahina is a holistic change expert. She empowers people to feel safe during major life change – divorce, serious illness or even if death is staring you in the eye. Her passion is to help you experience well-being and living powerfully until your last breath.