Beyond the Classroom

An Inside Look at the Hospice Nurse Residency Program


By Erin Dunphy, RN


Since I last wrote, I have been spending more time visiting patients with my nurse preceptor, Tracey Schwartz. I am learning so much from all the wonderful patients who have graciously welcomed me into their homes as a new hospice nurse to help care for them.  Each visit is more than just a physical check up on the patient. We review the plan of care and coordinate with a patient’s primary care physician. Together we determine what is working and what may need to be modified. We order medical supplies and prescription refills as needed to make sure the patient is comfortable and all symptoms are well-managed. Patient visits also include making sure that caregivers have what they need and trying to anticipate what the patient and family will need before the next visit.


At this point in the residency program the nurse residents are mostly out seeing patients, but we still have some time in the classroom. Recent classroom topics have included nutritional needs at end of life, which we discussed with Care Dimensions’ registered dietician Ann Manzi, wound care, the special needs of LGBT patients. We have spent significant time on dementia care training focusing on creating a positive environment for the dementia patient, from   approaching personal care to understanding a dementia patient’s behaviors as a means of communication. The residents have also had some specialized pediatric training with Care Dimensions’ pediatrician, Dr. Tamara Vessel, using professional actors to role play with clinical staff to enhance communication skills when working with pediatric patients and their families. We also learned about the resources available to children on Care Dimensions’ service or children of family members on service from Care Dimensions’ Child Life Specialist, Kristen Brandolini.


I also spent a day with my clinical manager, Pattie Condon. The day included sitting in on the interdisciplinary team meeting where the nurses, physicians, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors, and volunteer coordinators come together on a regular basis to collaborate on patient care. It was valuable to see the role that the clinical manager plays in the interdisciplinary team to ensure that all team members are supporting our patients and their families in the best possible way.


Over the next couple of weeks, I am looking forward to learning more about Care Dimensions’ cardiac and respiratory programs. I am also looking forward to spending more time with my clinical preceptor and beginning to work more independently in the field with her continued support.


Watch for more updates from Erin as she progresses through our hospice nurse residency program.

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"Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts."