So, when I enrolled in nursing school, I did not do so with the intention of becoming a hospice nurse and palliative care nurse. How many of us do? I seem to have found my way to this position through a variety of experiences, beginning in nursing school, that have revealed to me the unique and often life changing relationships I can have with those individuals who are closer to death than I am!
As a hospice and palliative care nurse, I have frequently been told, “I just don’t know how you do it, seeing death so often.” Sometimes family or friends of a dying patient will ask, “how do you do it?” So how do I explain this calling I have, vocation or a “gift?”
So often when I speak with a dying patient and his/her family, I like to use the analogy of crossing over a bridge (I had the privilege of attending The College of William and Mary in Virginia). There is a place on campus called Crim Dell. It is always in my mind when speaking with families. I speak of how the last portion of our lives are spent crossing over a bridge. We start out where we are at this point in time. We are surrounded by those things and people familiar to us. Our physical body fails and our spiritual being begins, we cross over a bridge to the other side. Some of us have an understanding and belief on what is on the other side, some of us only questions. During that journey, the patient may have conversations with people that have gone on before them. The patient may have periods of restlessness or agitation (maybe he/she is struggling with leaving the familiar side of the bridge). Of course they are. I share with my patients and their families, that I am here to help in making their physical body comfortable, so that their spirit body can cross over peacefully, and with support of our other team members.(Chaplin, MSW) We can assist the family in releasing their loved one to continue their lives in the spiritual world, to continue their journey across the bridge.
Yes, I do see death (physical death) often. However, I also have the privilege of assisting people in making a spiritual birth as well as helping family members to continue their lives here in this world until its time for them to cross over the bridge.