Hospice work is most assuredly fulfilling but it can at times also be exhausting. We’re in a profession where people constantly tell us to take care of ourselves – get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water, try meditation at the end of the day, eat right. All of these things are meant to help us replenish and restore balance in our lives, as well as our emotions and our spirits. We deal with very raw emotions of patients and families on a daily basis and that can take a toll if we don’t allow some time for ourselves.
It’s also easy for hospice staff to try to “take it in stride” and not realize the toll the added stress levels might be having on their lives. There’s an interesting compassion fatigue self-test that was developed by Dennis Portnoy that has 40 statements that you rate from 1 = Very True to 3 = Rarely True. They range from things like “When people get upset, I try to smooth things out,” to “It is hard for me to express sadness,” “It is best not to need others,” “Work dominates much of my life,” “People rely on me for support,” and “I can ask for help but only if the situation is serious.” If you answer 1 to more than 15 of the statements, he suggests it’s time to assess your own self-care issues. (The complete test is presented by the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project and can be found at www.compassionfatigue.org).
At Nathan Adelson Hospice, we recognize that the holidays can add to stress levels for employees and so we have a “Staff Stress Relief for the Holidays” event where employees are encouraged to drop by and experience a few minutes of blissful calm. Many are amazed at how much more relaxed they feel afterward and at the realization that they were a teeny bit more stressed than they thought!
We will have one of our pet therapists there, as well as a massage therapist for brief shoulder massages, a Reiki Master to help balance energies and quiet the mind, a chance for the employees to create their own aromatherapy pocket inhalers with the help of our Registered Aromatherapist and a “take your mind away from work” art project where they can create their own worry bead bracelets, count off their worries before going to bed, drop the bracelet in a small bowl of salt to pull all the negative energies away and then allow them to sleep peacefully, rejuvenating body, mind and spirit. Another time, the staff was encouraged to make “wish” boxes – little containers that they decorated with sayings, colors, ribbons, glitter, drawings - anything to inspire or remind them to reach for their dreams.
Any inherently stressful environment deserves some TLC now and again and we try to provide that at as often as possible so we’re not only taking care of patients and families. We’re taking care of each other.