Let’s talk hospice

I have been asked to write a blog about hospice care and I am honored to oblige.

I have nearly 12 years of experience with hospice and like most endeavors, I have been successful at growing them. The way hospice care is set up in our country is that Medicare comes with a hospice benefit making admission to hospice very easy on the wallet.

Can you imagine having a full service healthcare organization at your disposal? Nurses, social workers, chaplains, physician oversight, certified nurses aide care, volunteers and bereavement services just a phone call away?

Many have the belief that hospice means you are dying soon — like the next day! This is not true in most cases. Think about it this way: When you are dying and in pain, you don’t feel like living. What would happen if the pain and symptoms were managed? I mean managed to the point that your pain level drops from a 9 to a 2 in less than 48 hours.

Your caregiver and family have instant support and anticipatory grief counseling is in play. Hospice care is a wonderful thing and as a leader you have the distinct pleasure of growing the organization. Death is going to happen and about 85 percent of us will die of a terminal disease. There is such a thing as dying well and a good hospice can make this happen.

But to have a good hospice three things need to be present: 1) Low turnover — you cannot grow with variances in your care. You need a consistency to establish the best care so turnover cannot be a part of that equation. 2) Happy employees — as a director you do not control health benefits and pay. Each place has established these two items. You control the work environment. A happy office is always regulatory compliant, financially stable and employees take responsibility for the care or you have employee buy-in.

And 3) The director must get his hands dirty — A good director can rally the troops when he needs to, knows how to encourage and give feedback and is not afraid to “hit the streets” with the team. Whether it is supporting a nurse with a family in distress, helping the social worker deal with nursing home issues, assisting the chaplain with a memorial service, delivering surprise lunches for your CNAs, securing thank you gifts for your volunteers or out in the field marketing with the sales team, the director has the power to create an awesome work experience and allow the hospice team to be well engaged in care, not overworked, and excited about the care they provide.

Hospice is like a marriage: When the partners are working together, it’s a match made in heaven. When there is tension, unresolved issues and no communication, it’s the worst thing ever!

Directors, don’t give up on your team. Listen to them, praise them and work with them as you all are doing sacred work!