Avoiding Problematic Language in Hospice Nursing Narratives

Published on October 7, 2023

Updated on November 22, 2023

Proper documentation is crucial for hospice nurses to ensure and maintain the patient's eligibility for services. Auditors, who may not have a healthcare background, these documents to determine if the patient's condition is terminal. To avoid having the patient removed from service due to improper documentation, hospice nurses should be mindful of the words and phrases they use in their nursing narratives and progress notes. This article will provide guidance on what to avoid and why it is essential to paint a picture of a terminally ill patient.

Importance of Descriptive Narratives

Hospice nurses should aim for objective and descriptive documentation, avoiding vague statements such as “slow decline” or “disease progressing.” The more specific and detailed the documentation, the better it will support the patient's eligibility for . Here are some tips to help you create exceptional nursing narrative notes:

  • Document nursing actions immediately: To avoid omitting crucial details.
  • Keep your documentation descriptive: Provide in-depth details about every aspect of the patient's condition, care, or response to treatments.

Avoiding Vague Statements

When describing a patient's condition, it is crucial to avoid vague statements that may not accurately reflect their terminal status. Instead, focus on objective observations and specific symptoms that support the patient's eligibility for . For example, instead of stating “patient appears chronically ill,” you could describe specific symptoms such as “Patient presents with cachexia, fatigue, and dyspnea at rest” indicating advanced disease progression.

Be Mindful of Word Choices

In addition to avoiding vague statements, hospice nurses should be mindful of their word choices to ensure accurate and appropriate documentation. Here are some examples of words and phrases to avoid and alternative options to consider:

  • Avoid: Slow decline or disease progressing.
    • Use: Patient's condition has deteriorated over the past week, with increased pain and decreased mobility.
  • Avoid: Patient is stable
    • Use: Patient's are within normal limits for their current condition.
  • Avoid: Patient is comfortable.
    • Use: Patient's pain is well-managed with current medication regimen.
  • Avoid: Patient is not responding to treatment.
    • Use: Patient's symptoms have not improved despite appropriate interventions.
  • Avoid: Patient is well nourished.
    • Use: Patient reports attempting to maintain weight.
  • Avoid: No new changes.
    • Use: Continues to require ____________, ____________, and so on.
  • Avoid: Easts 100% of meals or good PO intake.
    • Use: Food must be pureed, requires assistance with feeding, caregiver spends ____ hours feeding patient to ensure optimal nutrition received.
  • Avoid: Sleeps well.
    • Use: Requires Trazodone QHS to help with sleep.

By using specific and accurate language, hospice nurses can paint a clear picture of the patient's terminal condition, supporting their eligibility for .

Painting a Picture of a Terminally Ill Patient

Auditors may not have a healthcare background, so it is essential to provide a clear and detailed picture of a terminally ill patient in your documentation. This will help them understand the patient's condition and ensure . Here are some key points to consider when painting a picture of a terminally ill patient:

  • Physical Symptoms: Describe the patient's physical symptoms, such as pain, dyspnea, or nausea, using appropriate pain scales or assessment tools.
  • : Document any changes in the patient's functional status, such as decreased mobility, increased dependence on caregivers, or difficulty performing activities of daily living.
  • Psychosocial and Emotional Needs: Address the patient's psychosocial and emotional needs, including , depression, or spiritual distress.
  • Supportive Care: Describe the supportive care measures provided, such as medication management, wound care, or emotional support for the patient and their family.

By focusing on these aspects of a patient's assessment and providing detailed, objective, and specific documentation, hospice nurses can ensure Medicare compliance and maintain the patient's eligibility for services.

Document Changes and Interventions

To ensure accurate and comprehensive documentation, hospice nurses should document any changes in the patient's condition, as well as the interventions implemented to address these changes. This information is crucial for auditors to understand the patient's terminal status and the effectiveness of the care provided. Some key points to consider when documenting changes and interventions include:

  • Document any new symptoms, changes in , or alterations in the patient's overall condition.
  • Include notes on the effectiveness, side effects, drug interactions or reactions, or any changes in dosages.
  • Clearly outline the nursing actions taken to address the patient's needs and the outcomes of these interventions.


Proper documentation is essential for hospice nurses to ensure Medicare compliance and maintain the patient's eligibility for services. By avoiding vague language, choosing appropriate words, and providing detailed descriptions, nurses can support the eligibility of terminally ill patients for . Additionally, documenting changes and interventions is crucial to demonstrate the quality of care provided. These practices not only benefit patients but also empower nurses to provide compassionate end-of-life care.


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