By Gary Bachrach, Executive Director, Home Care and Sara Simonds, RN, Field Representative
It really takes a special person to work in home, hospice or palliative care and it’s a pleasure to honor these workers, even when it’s not during National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.
We are amazed time and again at the dedication of not only our home, hospice and palliative care surveyors, but also of the professionals at the accredited organizations we serve. These jobs have always been challenging and the conditions over the last two years have demanded even more of staff. These individuals bring a lot of flexibility and creativity to their work during a very taxing time.
Palliative Care…At a Distance
Never in our wildest dreams did anyone imagine home or palliative care would become a remote position. This became a reality in 2020 and many clinicians in this industry are still delivering telehealth in late 2021. This has affected surveyors as well because many families were hesitant to open their doors to an additional person during the accreditation visit. The vaccine distribution helped somewhat but many families are still hesitant. We completely understand their position and are always happy to provide our vaccination status to ease families’ minds.
The palliative and home care workers we interact with have been so resilient about making family connections on Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Our surveyors are equally diligent about doing offsite visits, when necessary. Still, it goes against everything we’ve learned not to be able to hold a patient’s hand. We’re saddened at the fact that many patients are missing out on the home or palliative care they’re entitled to that can’t be delivered remotely, like bathing and personal care. We give so much credit everyone involved in the home and palliative care fields for creating every opportunity to augment care, be it via follow-up phone calls or video visits.
Individuals working in home, hospice or palliative care these days deserve a round of applause—or a week in the Bahamas—for dealing with the staff shortages this year. Like many other fields, these have experienced a major lack of staff. It’s an especially challenging time for smaller agencies that don’t have the resources to “fix” the problem by distributing additional bonuses or hiring travel nurses.
We can’t overstate the exemplary effort by the staff who continue to work in home, hospice and palliative care. Resources are thin, as many organizations can’t find qualified staff but existing staff is pitching in to ensure that patient care isn’t compromised. Nurse directors are going out in the field themselves when there’s no staff available. These are incredible times.
To staff at our accredited home, hospice and palliative care organizations: Thank you for always putting patients first, even though it means continuous changes to the way you do your job. You’ve continuously maintained a culture of safety and should be very proud of your work supporting our accredited organizations during this ever-changing time. We appreciate you so much.
You all exemplify the best of what our profession has to offer.
Sara Simonds, RN, is a Field Representative at The Joint Commission.
Gary Bachrach is Executive Director of Business Development, Home Care at The Joint Commission.