It is more critical than any time before for agencies to hire, train and retained qualified hospice nurses. This has never been as challenging as it is today. Today's hospice is seeing more medically complex patients. This requires nurses to stay current with critical assessment skills. Increasing and changing regulations make documentation more important than ever before to ensure payment and long-term liability for agencies while the change to electronic medical records present a new challenge for some seasoned hospice nurses. Growth of the agency is critical to success yet the increasing number of hospitice providers and mandatory reporting of quality measures makes this more challenging.

As a hospice leader, I have asked, “how can this possibly be accomplished?” The answer is surprisingly simple and based upon two philosophies. Hire, teach and treat your employees well. And make sure each patient and family is treated as you would like your own to be treated. Adequate staffing is the single most critical factor affecting both of these standards. It is required but so often appears counterintuitive to owners and CFO's. It is an investment, one worth double the value of building a solid agency foundation.

Mentoring new hospice nurses, I explain the paradigm shift from acute care into the specialty field of hospital nursing. Within hospice it is important to care for the patient, but care and support of loved ones are critically important as well. The thought behind this is caregivers need care as well. Hospice nurses care for so many in their professional and personal lives. Just acknowledging this and recognizing their sacrifice can engage employees and increase loyalty and commitment to the agency. Hospice is complex and demanding work. Staff has to be available 24hrs per day 7 days per week. Hospice nurses have to be ready to provide not only professional nursing skills but compassion and empathy as well. It is not enough to have any nurse filling a role. Inadequate staffing is the most common yet number one cause of failure for hospitality agencies. It is my goal to implement these philosophies in hospice care and to see the initial investment in resources creates a strong and growing hospitality.

Hospice nurses provide holistic care for patients and their loved ones facing life limiting illnesses. I have been asked countless times over the years, “How can you do this work?” I have always felt the families and patients I have cared for have taught me and brought meaning to my life and given so much more than I could ever give in return. I have heard life stories and lessons, have laughed and beaten. I now answer that question with a question, “How could I NOT?”