Family members and patients can call Gilchrist’s Nurse Helpline any time, day or night, 365 days a year. A triage nurse is always available to answer the call and get them the help they need either over the phone or by getting in touch with their hospice team.
During the day, the triage nurse can reach out to anyone on the patient’s care team and inform them of the situation. During the evenings and nights, triage can reach out to on-call staff if a visit is needed in an emergency.
However, our main goal is to try and help the caller as best we can over the phone. All of us in triage are nurses with many years of experience in hospice, oncology, critical care, home care and other specialties. We have all worked in hospice either as home care nurses or hospice inpatient nurses. We can suggest and instruct on medications to give based on the orders already established in the patient’s record as well as offer simple alternative measures for comfort that don’t necessitate medication.
We collaborate with the case managers, doctors and other team members to aid in prescription refills, ordering medical equipment and requesting additional support from hospice aides, chaplains and other team members. We also field questions from pharmacies, doctors’ offices, hospitals and funeral homes.
Often our time is spent listening and offering support when family members and patients are struggling with the changes and decline they are seeing or experiencing. We offer insight and education on what is normal, common and to be expected at the end of life. We are often the first people someone talks to when their loved one has died, and the sound of a familiar voice can be very comforting.
Although our role is somewhat “invisible,” we provide a great deal of knowledge, service and comfort to not only our patients and families but also our fellow case managers and care teams.