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    24 Deeply Honest Confessions From A Hospice Worker

    It's honestly not all doom and gloom.

    1. Most hospices have at least one therapy pet that comes in to visit patients and comfort families.

    St Columba's Hospice

    Like Brodie, a Therapet at St. Columba's Hospice in Edinburgh. There are also therapy cats, and patients' pets are often allowed in for visits too. At times, even horses have been brought into hospices so their owners can say goodbye.

    2. We help patients achieve their final wishes and goals.

    From arranging medical equipment so a patient can go on holiday, visiting a zoo, or phoning an airfield to book a patient on a skydive, our community nursing teams have seen and done it all, and we're always happy to help.

    3. Plenty of our patients get to go home again.

    4. People often don't realise just how many people work at a typical hospice.

    5. We don't just care for people with cancer.

    St Columba's Hospice

    It's a myth that hospices = cancer. We care for anyone with a terminal illness, including degenerative conditions like Motor Neurone Disease. Our occupational therapists, physios, and social workers work hard to help MND patients adapt their homes and lives in order to stay independent for as long as possible.

    6. And we look after young people too.

    People often think that hospices are the same as nursing homes for older people, but we actually care for people from the ages of 18 upwards. Under 18s and their families are cared for by specialist childrens' hospices.

    7. And we do a lot of things to prolong people's lives.

    8. People wince when we tell them what we do.

    9. We get a more than a little tired of people saying "oh, poor you, your job must be so sad."

    10. We also don't just sit around holding patients' hands all day long.

    11. We get tired and grumpy and fed up, just like anyone else.


    People often describe us as "angels", but that can be very hard to live up to. It's pretty easy to get burned out, tbh. Our job brings out both positive and negative parts of our personality, just like any other.

    12. A huge part of a hospice's job is supporting bereaved and soon-to-be-bereaved families.

    13. We do get upset (and cry) when people die.

    St Columba's Hospice

    We're only human after all. Some patients come to outpatient clinics and to our day hospice (with activities and specialists) for several months before being admitted. We build a close bond and miss them when they're gone.

    14. But there is such a thing as a "good death".

    Redwood Motion Pictures

    We feel like we've done our job well if our patient passes away in the place and manner they chose (many people want to die at home in their own bed). And, crucially, without pain. It make us feel better if we know we've achieved that.

    15. We could write a book about what not to say to someone who has just been bereaved.


    "Oh well, she was a good age," "at least they're out of pain now," and the old fallback: "I know how you feel". Unfortunately, you probably don't. Just say "how are you?" instead, and let them answer honestly. Then just sit and listen.

    16. We get yelled at more often than you'd think.

    Flickr: 77799978@N00 / Creative Commons

    Our community nurses visit people in their homes. They're often the first person a patient sees after being told that their illness is incurable, so emotions are often running high. We go out in pairs if we think we might walk into a volatile situation.

    17. We're not that afraid of death or dying.

    Particularly nurses. If we were, we couldn’t do the job. And we’re all in the midst of dying, after all. Our job keeps us aware of mortality, we also know that there is good care available to people to keep them pain-free at the end of their lives.

    18. Nurses work in close-knit teams, which help us to cope with the emotional situations we see each day.

    19. We don't tend to go to funerals.

    Pool / Getty Images

    Although very occasionally a hospice social worker might go along as part of their official role, to support a family member who is going through a more complex form of grief than usual, or who has a difficult relationship with their family.

    20. Different types of people have very different approaches to death.

    21. We actually have a lot of fun.

    22. And we can be very daft at times.

    23. In fact, we feel like our work really highlights what's important in life.

    St Columba's Hospice

    At the end of the day, hospices really are amazing places. Everything superficial in life falls away and you get to the core of what's really important. And for each person, it might be something different, like family, love, art, or friendship.

    24. And at the day, we absolutely love what we do.

    You get to witness some truly special moments, big or small. At the end of the day, it’s not all doom and gloom.

    This post was put together with the help of the dedicated staff at St. Columba's Hospice in Edinburgh. They're a registered charity who always need donations to fund their work. To support them, please click here.

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