Hospice serves more than a million patients each year through some 5,800 programs across the country. This vital component to the modern healthcare system has its roots in the Middle Ages, but was introduced into the United States when a visiting physician came to Connecticut’s Yale University and convinced the school’s nurses of its merit.
“Hospice” comes from the same root word as hospitality and goes back to medieval times when the term referred to a place of shelter for those travelling upon a journey. In the Middle Ages, religious orders often set up hospices along routes to famous shrines where people were going to seek miracle cures for illness. Many of them died while on their pilgrimages and the shelters afforded comfort during their last days.
By the 19th century, hospice was more formally associated with care of the terminally ill and dying. It wasn’t until physician, nurse, and hospice advocate Dame Cicely Saunders founded St. Christopher’s House in London that the role of hospice in patient treatment was ensured. This facility established care for dying patients in a way that managed their pain and helped them prepare for death. St. Christopher’s was the first hospice “linking expert pain and symptom control, compassionate care, teaching and clinical research.”1
When Saunders spoke to Yale’s nursing students in 1963, she inspired them to bring hospice to America. In 1974, a Connecticut hospice nurse and accompanying volunteer made the first hospice home visit in the U.S., creating Connecticut Hospice. The Connecticut Hospice was officially established in 1980, becoming the first licensed hospital in the U.S. with the primary purpose of providing hospice care.
Hospice programs provide emotional, social, and spiritual support to terminally ill and dying patients as well as their families. Hospice focuses on addressing issues of pain, as well as patient quality of life. Today it is considered an invaluable service for those approaching end-of-life and is a nationally guaranteed health benefit. The trained hospice professionals who come to the bedsides of dying patients are kind and compassionate patient advocates who find their work challenging, yet rewarding. If you’ve ever considered a hospice career, training as a practical nurse could help you attain the skills you need to work in hospice.
Porter and Chester Institute offers practical nursing training at all five of our Connecticut campuses. If you’d like to learn more about where a career in practical nursing might lead you, contact us today for a school tour!