CommunityHospice/Palliative CareOff the Charts

Is hospice care a two-way street?

By: Julie Cullen

As a non-nurse, my perception of why nurses decide to work in hospice care centers around patients and families—relieving pain, assuaging fears, answering questions, being a comfort. But then I read a personal essay on Slate about a nurse who went from working in an emergency department to hospice care. My perception has changed.

Working in hospice, for many nurses (not all), is more than a calling to care for others. It can be a way to heal themselves. The author of the Slate essay, Kimberly A. Condon, talks about the day when she realized that her work in the ED had changed her. And she reflects on her childhood, in which she describes herself as being so overly sensitive that she couldn’t watch Westerns because the actors yanked on the bits in the horses’ mouths. And then she shares the story that brought me to tears. The one that made it clear to me that hospice nurses get as much out of the care they provide as do the patients and families.

As someone who’s been on the receiving end of hospice care when my mother was dying, I’m comforted to know that I may have given something back.

Read the essay here.

Throughout February, the American Nurse Today website will focus on hospice care. You’ll find stories from hospice nurses, information about how you can become a hospice and palliative care nurse, and resources you can share with patients and families. And if you work in hospice care, we welcome your stories and insights. Email me at

Julie Cullen, managing editor of American Nurse Today and a curator of online content for the American Nurse Today website, is most definitely not a nurse, but she admires what all of you do everyday. In her Off the Charts blog she shares some of her experiences as a patient and family member of patients, thoughts and ideas that occur to her during her work editing nursing content, and information she thinks you might find interesting. Julie welcomes your feedback. You can submit a comment on the website or email her at

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