Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, author of the book “On Death and Dying,” also considered to be the founder of the death with dignity and hospice care movement said, “There is no joy without hardship. If not for death, would we appreciate life? Those who learn to know death, rather than to fear and fight it, become our teachers about life.” The entire philosophy behind end-of-life care, often called hospice or palliative care, is about love, kindness, and dignity—and learning to appreciate life. Helping to ease the pain and grief that comes with death is the role of those rare individuals that are willing to work with the dying; the palliative care specialist.
Physician assistants are an integral part of a hospice team; if you are currently pursuing a degree in an online allied health program and are interested in one of the top paying health care careers, consider the available careers in hospice health care. It is a labor of love, and a field where a physician’s assistant can really help patients and their families, and is a unique allied health specialty.
What is Palliative (Hospice) Care?
Palliative Care tackles both the physical and the psychological aspects of the end of life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), palliative care is “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.” Those that work in hospices are palliative care specialists.
The WHO goes on to list the following to describe hospice care:
- Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms
- Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process
- Intends neither to hasten or postpone death
- Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care
- Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death
- Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patients illness and in their own bereavement
- Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counseling, if indicated
- Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness
- Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.
What Comprise a Hospice Team?
Working in hospices you will find physicians, nurses, home care aids, social workers, therapists and counselors, and the family of the dying individual. Hospice care is often provided both in the home and in a hospice center.
Because of our aging population, hospice care is in high demand, and there is a critical shortage of those special people that can work in the hospice field. Home Care Aids are especially in high demand in the hospice field, and this allied health career offers stability and substantial personal and financial reward.
How Do I Work in Hospice Care?
Palliative care specialists are obviously physicians and nurses, but there are many careers in hospice health care available that also help provide this important care. Home Care Aids are a large part of a hospice care team, offering the kind of intimate care that is needed for the very sick.
Most community, career, and vocational college offer Home Care Aid certification programs. In order to work in the Medicare system, specific guidelines must be met, and home care aids must pass a specific test. Most programs are between one and two years.
A Special Gift: A Peaceful Passing
Working in hospice care requires a special person. Because the focus is on comfort rather than cure, most patients in hospice care are in their last six months of life. Hospice care provides patients with pain and symptom relief as well as emotional support for the patients and their families.
If you want to give the gift of death with dignity and an absence of pain, perhaps working in hospice care if right for you. Helping ease the end for the terminally ill is quite a gift indeed.