Pioneers of Hospice: Changing the Face of Dying – Nursing Homes Example

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"Pioneers of Hospice: Changing the Face of Dying" is an excellent example of a paper on nursing homes. The issues of death and dying have preoccupied humans since time immemorial. It has been a constant but oftentimes hushed topic but a lot of things have changed as it deals with this morbid subject. People today tend to accept more the inevitability of death, as evidenced by sales of life insurance. Previously, people avoided or eschewed buying life insurance as it was an implicit admission of death. But today people buy it just like any other consumer product.

There is a sea change in attitudes towards death and the health care industry has likewise been a big help in this paradigm shift where doctors and nurses render end-of-life or palliative medicine. This paper discusses the changes in society and nursing with regards to the issue of dying.   Death is a morbid topic because people do not really know what happens after death. It is human's greatest fear - the fear of the unknown. Death can be viewed from many perspectives; it is usually seen by most people in a spiritual manner as a human finally succumbs to inevitable.

It is considered as the final step towards eternity and the dying should not be ostracized in the last moments of life and that was exactly what medicine has been doing before the rise of the hospice movement. Death was previously viewed as a failure of medical science which is unable to extend or prolong life; the patients dying from cancer challenged the optimism and very essence of medicine (Forman, 2003, p. 4). Although hospices were in existence for many centuries ago, it is relatively a modern phenomenon in the way hospice care has been elevated to a distinct science and profession.

It is a special philosophy of care that is focused on the patient by addressing his or her concerns in the final moments and even before that when terminally-ill patients are taken care of based on a totality of their various needs, be it physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual or social. The rise of the modern hospice movement can be largely credited to the great English nurse and doctor, Cicely Mary Saunders, who was made a dame of the British Empire or the title of a DBE in recognition of the importance of her pioneering work.

Before her advocacy of being a foremost promoter of hospice care, most hospitals had emphasized the use of the new medical technologies in caring for a patient that was focused on the disease instead of the patient. In this regard, she took up medicine so she could become a doctor and be able to implement her ideas in how to properly care for a terminally-ill patient as her being a nurse before relegated her to being a mere assistant of a licensed doctor.

A nurse cannot do things on her own but instead has to ably follow all the orders of a doctor. In other words, she as a nurse could not take initiative in how a patient should be cared for based on her new ideas of palliative care. She wanted a holistic-care approach of total expert pain relief and being a doctor now allows her to do things she wanted.

It is recognized she succeeded because she persevered in her ideas despite resistance by many other people, especially the medical establishment, which is quite impersonal and does not see a need to tell a patient or their families that death is imminent. Dying was not in a dignified manner. Florence Wald was the American equivalent of Dame Cicely Saunders in the U. S. who was immensely influenced by her during one of her lecture tours in the United States. Ms. Wald copied the ideas of Saunders and even worked under her for one month in a hospice established by Saunders in Great Britain precisely to learn how hospice care is implemented by the pioneer.

She organized an interdisciplinary team to study the needs of dying patients and then eventually to establish the first American hospice in Connecticut. Both women brought death and dying to the public attention through their tenacious advocacy (Grover & Fowler, 2011, p. 1)


Forman, W. B. (2003). Hospice and palliative care: Concepts and practice. Sudbury, MA, USA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Grover, R. J. & Fowler, S. G. (2011). Helping those experiencing loss: A guide to grieving resources. Sta. Barbara, CA, USA: ABC-CLIO.

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