Life of a hospice nurse

“When I meet people and let them know I’m a hospice nurse, I often hear, ‘How can you do that? How can you be there for such a sad moment in people’s lives.'"

“When I meet people and let them know I’m a hospice nurse, I often hear, ‘How can you do that? How can you be there for such a sad moment in people’s lives,’” Kristy Fulks said.

Fulks has been a nurse for almost 30 years. She’s been a hospice nurse with Lower Cape Fear Hospice for the past seven of those years.

But she doesn’t see her job as sad. She sees it as a gift and a privilege to be able to be there with that person and guide them and make them feel comfortable.

Fulks decided to become a hospice nurse in her 20’s after her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Her mother went through hospice and Fulks saw what great care those nurses took of her mother.

“When she passed, I looked at those hospice nurses and realized that one day I wanted to do that myself,” Fulks said. “I wanted to give back what I received from those nurses.”

But Fulks admits that although the job can be rewarding, it is emotionally tough.

“Some days you do cry, you do grieve for your patient’s loss,” Fulks said. “But there’s also a lot of reward. You get to be there for a lot of happy moments, a lot of important moments. It’s very special and a privilege to be a part of someone’s life at the end.”

One of the things she enjoys the most is spending one-on-one time with her patients.

Being in other areas of nursing before hospice, she says you only have a limited amount of time with each patient. You’re always up on your feet, call lights are constantly going off, and you have multiple patients a day.

“Being a hospice nurse, I get to sit down with that patient, and with that family, and give them my undivided attention,” Fulks said.

Losing a patient isn’t the most difficult part of the job according to Fulks. It’s the families.

“The most difficult part of the job is when families are having a hard time accepting that their loved one is nearing the end of their life,” Fulks said. “And watching them suffer just as much as the patient. Patients are usually very accepting by the time they reach this point in their life and they are hoping that their loved ones are ready to let them move on.”

And although her patients always move on to a better place, each one leaves a mark in her heart.

“You remember a certain smile. Or a certain joke that they always would tell you, because a lot of them do tell you the same joke over and over again,” Fulks joked. “And you carry that with you.”

Overall, Fulks says there are a lot more happy moments in hospice than people realize.

“There are a lot more happy and joyous moments in hospice than people want to think about.”

Lower Cape Fear Hospice would like to thank all the hard-working nurses who take care of those in our community every day.

To learn more about Lower Cape Fear Hospice, visit their website here.