1. Boyd, Pamela MSN, RN, CPHQ

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While making rounds on our inpatient hospice unit, I noticed huge gold numbered balloons, a beautifully decorated cake, champagne, and a dozen pink roses in the staff room. I assumed it was a party for a staff member, but the charge nurse cheerfully explained that it was for Mr. A, a recent admission from our home hospice team. An emergent situation prompted the home hospice team to initiate transfer to the inpatient hospice unit. This is often the case for those transferring from home and can result in a short length of stay, 3 days on average. There are numerous challenges inpatient staff face daily, such as strict attention to documentation to ensure regulatory requirements for this level of care are met. At the same time, we focus on resolving acute pain and symptom management crises while establishing emotional connections with patients and their caregivers in a very short time.


His nurse explained that when she was admitting Mr. A to our hospice unit, he became tearful as he told her how much he loved his wife and that their 60th wedding anniversary was coming up. She knew immediately that she had to do something to help him show his wife how much he loved her. Because this was an emergent situation, time was of the essence. She quickly coordinated with her colleagues to secure orders to ensure champagne was permitted and a party could be pulled off without a hitch. "It is in those moments that I find the most fulfillment in hospice - to help someone achieve lasting memories like that. They warm the soul," she said. The next day she came to work on her day off to deliver the supplies to help Mr. and Mrs. A celebrate their upcoming 60th wedding anniversary.


And warm the soul it did, for everyone involved. While the family was taking a meal break, the staff sprang into action, helping Mr. A spruce up and decorating his room. The positive energy on the unit was palpable. When Mr. A's wife returned, the charge nurse explained to her that there was a surprise waiting for her. There was not a dry eye to be found as we all relished being a part of helping a patient achieve something that was so important to him.


As the admission nurse explained: "Mr. A's family was such a pleasure to get to know and I feel blessed to have been a part of his final moments here." The unit manager told me that although it is not every day that hospice nurses pick up party supplies and plan a celebration, especially during a pandemic, it is every day though, that hospice staff attempt to discover what matters most to patients and families. It is these smaller acts of kindness and support that are heroic and aimed at helping patients achieve peace and comfort.


The last 18 months of caring for patients and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight even further why this anniversary party was a momentous occasion. We rapidly adapted to ongoing challenges (not uncommon to those of their acute hospital colleagues) including swiftly changing personal protective equipment requirements, new visitation screening and policies, as well as safety measures and unit security. Every day, we juggle all of these things with no accolades in mind. As one of the nurses explained: "On this unit what matters to our patients, matters to us, and these things are not a hardship, it's organic to our work."