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Hospice Services and Nursing Role


Hospice facilities help patients suffering from terminal illnesses live a happy and significant life in their last days. Connor (2008) claims that even though hospice facilities offer services that are akin to those available in hospitals, they assist patients as they draw near death. The demand for hospice services is bound to increase as cases of chronic and terminal illnesses continue to arise.

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Brief History

Cicely Saunders was the first to establish a hospice facility. In the early 1950s, Saunders felt the urge to come up with measures to assist individuals who suffered from excruciating pain. Saunders served as a volunteer at Saint Luke’s Hospital where she sympathized with people who were in pain. At the outset, Saunders opened a hospice facility with the objective of helping patients who were terminally ill. According to Connor (2008), hospice services were meant for cancer patients. Today, the facilities cater to patients with a variety of life-limiting diseases like AIDS and Motor Neuron Disease.


In the United States, hospice facilities serve patients from different ethnic backgrounds. According to statistics from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, over six percent of the patients that receive the hospice services are from Latino and Hispanic backgrounds (Ngo-Metzger, Phillips & McCarthy, 2015). Additionally, over one-fifth of the patients hail from the non-Caucasian background. Currently, national statistics show that hospice facilities serve over 1.65 million Americans. The population is expected to increase as more people learn about hospice services.

Ethical Implications

Hospice services are associated with numerous ethical dilemmas. One of the dilemmas is “the ability of the clinicians to predict a patient prognosis of six months or less accurately, and to what extent hospice programs are obligated to provide patients with full information about their illnesses” (Chaturvedi, 2008, p. 613). The clinicians have the duty to update patients on their treatment procedures and recovery status. Another ethical issue is the use of certain drugs like morphine. Even though such drugs are helpful to the patient, they might have adverse effects on individuals suffering from cancer. Hence, a clinician needs to weigh the impacts of the drugs before administering them to patients.

Cultural Issues

The cultural issues that affect the hospice facilities include family dynamics, religious beliefs, and cultural practices. Different communities have diverse beliefs about illnesses, coping, death, and suffering. Although the clinicians have the duty to inform the patients about their illnesses, some communities prefer to remain silent on the issue (Lloyd, White & Sutton, 2011). Additionally, patients that practice the Buddhist culture refuse to use sedative drugs as a way to stay alert. These cultural practices and beliefs affect the nature of service delivery in hospice facilities.

Importance of Hospice

One importance of hospice facilities is that they help to alleviate suffering in patients who are terminally ill. The facilities take care of patients emphasizing the esteem, dignity, and wishes of the individuals (Gozalo, Miller, Intrator, Barber & Mor, 2008). They also help patients to lead a meaningful life until they die. The hospice facilities provide both spiritual and emotional support to the sick, thus enabling them to remain helpful to society.

Role of Nurse

The primary function of the nurse is to offer hands-on nursing care to the patients at all times. The nurses help patients to cope with the pain and other signs. Additionally, it is the duty of the nurses to help the patients die with dignity (Ablett & Jones, 2007). For people who receive treatment from home, the nurses train the family members on how to care for the patient.

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Hospice facilities are here to stay. The increase in the number of cancer patients signifies that more people will require hospice services. In spite of the religious, cultural, and ethical dilemmas associated with palliative care, the facilities are invaluable to the patients and community at large.


Ablett, J., & Jones, R. (2007). Resilience and well-being in palliative care staff: A qualitative study of hospice nurses’ experience of work. Psycho-Oncology, 16(8), 733-740.

Chaturvedi, S. (2008). Ethical dilemmas in palliative care in traditional developing societies, with special reference to the Indian setting. Journal of Medical Ethics, 34(8), 611-615.

Connor, S. (2008). Development of hospice and palliative care in the United States. Omega Journal of Death and Dying, 56(1), 89-99.

Gozalo, P., Miller, S., Intrator, O., Barber, J., & Mor, V. (2008). Hospice effect on government expenditures among nursing home residents. Health Services Research, 43(1), 134-153.

Lloyd, L., White, K., & Sutton, E. (2011). Researching the end-of-life in old age: Cultural, ethical and methodological issues. Ageing and Society, 31(3), 386-407.

Ngo-Metzger, Q., Phillips, R., & McCarthy, E. (2015). Ethnic disparities in hospice use among Asian-American and Pacific Islander patients dying of cancer. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 56(1), 139-144.

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