“Hospice Nurse Julie” Dispels Myths about Death and Dying to Over a Million Followers on TikTok

Julie McFadden is a TikTok-famous hospice nurse with 1.1 million followers. She loves her job because she helps people find peace in death, and she uses her social media presence to share her knowledge on the subject. Julie has also appeared in articles by Newsweek, People magazine, and many other magazines, newspapers, and podcasts. According to Julie, “The best part about my job is educating patients and families about death and dying as well as supporting them emotionally and physically.” She also says that she wants to “normalize death by talking about it.”

People Have the Wrong Idea about Death

Whenever Julie tells someone that she is a hospice nurse, people react in one of two ways: They either shriek, “Oh, you must be an angel” or groan and say, “God, that must be the most depressing job in the world.” In reality, according to Julie, neither of those sentiments could be further from the truth.

In 2017, Julie became an ICU nurse. During the 10 years she worked in the intensive care unit, she felt the constant rush of being forced to operate in what seemed like an endless cycle of “hurry up and care.” That’s when she began to consider working in hospice care, which is traditionally for individuals with less than six months to live and is completely focused on comfort rather than treatment. Being a hospice nurse is the best job Julie has ever had, in her opinion, because every day she feels like she gets to help improve someone’s quality of life!

How She Got Started on TikTok

Julie feels like her work has taught her a lot about death and dying, and she feels that there is so much that people have wrong about it. She wanted to find a way to share what she has learned at her job on a larger scale. She knew she found the way to do it when her 10- and 11-year-old nieces introduced her to TikTok. To Julie, it seemed like an easy way to share her thoughts, so she decided to launch her own channel under the handle “Hospice Nurse Julie.” She only posted a handful of videos when one of them about a book she always recommends called “Gone From My Sight: The Dying Experience” went viral, and things just took off from there.

When she first launched her channel, there was so much that Julie wanted to share and so many myths that she wanted to debunk. She found inspiration through her daily work, the people she met, and the questions people ask. While many couldn’t imagine being so close to death, McFadden now says there’s nothing else she’d rather do. “To be able to provide somebody with answers and comfort and care and to help that process be easier, it feels like a gift,” she said.

Here are some of the things that hospice nurse Julie has shared on TikTok:

  • Julie loves educating patients and families about what to expect with hospices and what to expect with the specific disease they are dying from. She also really likes giving the patient and family some comfort knowing hospice nurses can be there to manage their symptoms.
  • She believes that the more people know about the end of life, the less fear they’ll have surrounding the subject.
  • She discusses common phenomena people see at the end of life. These are two examples in her videos:
    • “The Rally”: One of Julie’s videos discusses a phenomenon dubbed “The Rally.” Hospice patients will suddenly seem like they’re getting better – many resume eating, some start walking again, and others will talk or laugh. The burst of energy is short-lived, however. Many patients die within hours or days of “The Rally.” “It happens to probably a third of our hospice patients,” Julie says in the video. “So much so that we try to educate the family about this before this happens so it doesn’t devastate them when they suddenly pass after doing so well for a few days.” The technical term for the occurrence is terminal lucidity. Here’s an article I wrote on the end of life rally phenomenon about four years ago.
    • Seeing dead relatives: Julie talks about other regularly-occurring phenomena in her videos, including an occurrence where patients say they see dead relatives, friends, and even pets up to a month before they pass. The experience usually isn’t scary for the patient, Julie explains in her video. “It’s usually very comforting to them. They usually say they’re sending a message like ‘We’re coming to get you soon’ or ‘Don’t worry. We’ll help you,'” Julie said. The experience is actually very common, according to research and the vast majority of people, nearly 90 percent, in the last weeks of life, can report at least one very distinct experience, which is usually vivid, comforting, and very meaningful. Although Julie and other medical professionals can’t explain this common phenomenon, most people who are spiritual recognize that this is a “real” experience because the veil between this world and the true energetic realm where our true energetic selves live becomes thinner as we approach death.
  • Julie shares some of the physical changes families can expect when a loved one is approaching the end of this earthly lifetime. “The symptoms of the actively dying phase include changes in consciousness, changes in breathing, mottling, and terminal secretions,” she says. “These are normal and NOT painful or uncomfortable.”
  • She reassures viewers that “our bodies take care of ourselves at the end of life — the less we intervene, the better.”
  • She explains that it’s not true that people die quickly once they arrive at a hospice and that “hospice does not kill people.”
  • She also dispels the rumor that morphine helps bring about the end of life faster.
  • According to Julie, “(t)here is something most people say before they die, and it’s usually ‘I love you’ or they call out to their mom or dad — who have usually already died.”
  • What Julie learned pretty quickly was that people were ready and willing to not only listen but to engage and talk about death and dying. She says that families can start conversations about death by just having one person willing to start by sharing their own wishes for the end.

“Educating people on what it really looks like to die, what the phases you are most likely going to see, the “abnormal” things that are normal in death and dying, and just broaching that topic, makes people feel better,” says Julie.

Some followers reach out seeking medical advice, which is both illegal and unethical for her to give, so at times it can be difficult because people look to her for answers. In these situations, she’ll suggest they speak to their doctor or hospice team directly.

Julie’s biggest hope for her TikTok channel is that it continues to be a place where people can openly talk about topics long considered by some people to be taboo, and to decrease the fear and stigma sometimes attached to death and dying, which is of course just a normal part of life.

Talking about Death and Dying

Talking about end-of-life issues is emotional and difficult for many people, but it’s a vital step to making sure your wishes are clear. As Julie conveys in her videos and in her podcast and YouTube appearances, a conversation, followed by incapacity planning (done typically as part of comprehensive estate planning) can make all the difference.

It’s not always easy to talk about how you want the end of your life to be. But it’s one of the most important conversations you can have with your loved ones. How do you get started? Please click here to view my articles on end-of-life conversations.

There Is No Need to Be Afraid of Dying

What we call death is inevitable, but it may not be a source of fear for those going through the dying process or for their family members. As people who are spiritual recognize, this earthly lifetime is a very small part of our overall true energetic existence, and our souls and true energetic selves never die. Julie herself has helped make this point when being interviewed in several spiritual podcasts, such as this “Magic is Real” podcast and this “Woophoria” podcast. For more reading on this topic of spirituality and death and grief, please visit this page of our website.

Even when we understand that what we call death is never truly the end of our existence, it is almost always a sad and stressful time for the loved ones you leave behind. So why not make it as easy on them as you can? Once you have taken the step of speaking with your loved ones about your wishes, it is important for you to sign Incapacity Planning documents, including a General Power of Attorney and our proprietary 4 Needs Advance Medical Directive, and Estate Planning documents, including a Last Will and usually a trust — either a Revocable Living Trust to protect your assets from probate or our proprietary Living Trust Plus® to protect your assets from probate plus lawsuits plus long-term care expenses. Whenever you are ready to begin your own planning, please contact us for an initial consultation:

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-1435
Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.

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