Easing the End - Working in Hospice Care
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, author of the book "On Death and Dying," also
considered to be the founder of the death with dignity and hospice care
movement said, "There is no joy without hardship. If not for death, would
we appreciate life? Those who learn to know death, rather than to fear
and fight it, become our teachers about life." The entire philosophy
behind end-of-life care, often called hospice or palliative care, is
about love, kindness, and dignity-and learning to appreciate life.
Helping to ease the pain and grief that comes with death is the role of
those rare individuals that are willing to work with the dying.
Physician assistants are an integral part of a hospice team; if you are
currently pursuing a degree in an online allied health program and are
interested in one of the top paying health care careers, consider working
in hospice care. It is a labor of love, and a field where a physician's
assistant can really help patients and their families.
What is Palliative (Hospice) Care?
Palliative Care tackles both the physical and the psychological aspects
of the end of life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),
palliative care is "an approach that improves the quality of life of
patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-
threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by
means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of
pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual."
The WHO goes on to list the following to describe hospice care:
Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
Intends neither to hasten or postpone death
Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible
Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients
illness and in their own bereavement
Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families,
including bereavement counseling, if indicated
Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the
course of illness
Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other
therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or
radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better
understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
What Comprise a Hospice Team?
A hospice team is made up of physicians, nurses, home care aids, social
workers, therapists and counselors, and the family of the dying
individual. Hospice care is often provided both in the home and in a
Because of our aging population, hospice care is in high demand, and
there is a critical shortage of those special people that can work in the
hospice field. Home Care Aids are especially in high demand in the
hospice field, and this allied health career offers stability and
substantial personal and financial reward.
How Do I Work in Hospice Care?
Hospice workers are obviously physicians and nurses, but there are many
allied health professionals who also provide this important care. Home
Care Aids are a large part of a hospice care team, offering the kind of
intimate care that is needed for the very sick.
Most community, career, and vocational college offer Home Care Aid
certification programs. In order to work in the Medicare system, specific
guidelines must be met, and home care aids must pass a specific test.
Most programs are between one and two years.
A Special Gift: A Peaceful Passing
Working in hospice care requires a special person. Because the focus is
on comfort rather than cure, most patients in hospice care are in their
last six months of life. Hospice care provides patients with pain and
symptom relief as well as emotional support for the patients and their
If you want to give the gift of death with dignity and an absence of
pain, perhaps working in hospice care if right for you. Helping ease the
end for the terminally ill is quite a gift indeed.