As an aspiring hospice nurse, you need to know first the difference between hospice care and palliative care. Although the two terms are used interchangeably, they’re not synonymous.
According to Gabriela Kaplan, RN, MSN, AOCN, an oncology clinical nurse specialist who specializes on end-of-life care, palliative care is part of hospice care. Both are focused on managing symptoms and providing comfort to the patient during the last stages of life. However, they differ in terms of three key aspects:
Hospice care is often administered at home after the physician has determined that the patient is already not responding to any conventional medical treatments.
However, this is not exactly the case most of the time. Although 42% of qualified patients receive hospice care, they only receive the services for an average of under 3 weeks. This is mainly due to doctors who are not really trained to refer patients to hospice care and mostly focus on exhausting all options to cure diseases. As a result, hospice nurses and other members of the multidisciplinary team don’t have enough time to plan and provide adequate hospice care to terminally-ill patients.
As opposed to hospice patients who receive care at home either from a caregiver or a visiting nurse, those who are under palliative care stay in the hospital or other medical facilities.
Duration of Treatment
Hospice care involves patients who have been determined to be in their last 6 months of life. The goal of the hospice care nurse and other members of the team is not to prolong life or cure diseases, but to ensure the patient approaches death without any serious pain and discomfort.
Palliative care, on the other hand, may occur at any stage, from diagnosis and hope for cure, to hospice and hope for care. Palliative care may still involve efforts to cure the patient’s disease or may be used in conjunction with life-sustaining treatments as the patient is not required to give up the fight for recovery.
As long as the patient has been determined to be within the last 6 months of life, he or she may be qualified to receive full coverage of hospice care from Medicare and/or Medicaid. Services provided for the palliative care are billed separately and covered by the patient’s medical insurance.
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