As the Jewish holiday of Shavuot approaches, (at sundown on May 30 through nightfall on June 1), I’m reminded of a hospice patient that I had the honor of studying Torah with during our visits together over a year’s time.
The patient, whom I’ll call Esther, had moved from Philadelphia to Chicago to be closer to her family at the end of her life. She had recently lost her husband, her tight knit Torah study group, and her social network in Philadelphia.
Hospice can be a very scary and ominous word to many people. As a hospice admissions nurse, I see the fear, indecision, vulnerability, confusion and despair firsthand.
Some patients I meet have a newly diagnosed terminal disease, and others suffer from a long-protracted disease that is now in the last stages. More often than not, the patient is ready to stop treatments and focus on pain and symptom management. They want to remain at home in safe, warm and familiar surroundings, rather than the grueling routine of a hospital or skilled nursing facility with endless doctor visit cycles.
As an Advanced Practice Nurse and International Psychologist, I'm passionate about providing hospice and palliative care simply because it is the right thing to do.
Everyone facing serious illness deserves this holistic, compassionate care, and I feel extremely blessed to be part of an organization like JourneyCare – one that shares my vision of delivering care to all who need it.
Part of our shared mission is spreading the word about the need for this supportive care in our communities, in the United States and throughout the world. That is because, unfortunately, many people are not able to receive the hospice or palliative care they need. This includes not only patients in developing countries, but even citizens of our own country who are part of marginalized, stigmatized and vulnerable groups.
Before becoming a hospice nurse, my professional career included extensive time serving in an intensive care unit, a coronary care unit and an emergency room, where the adrenaline and energy was high. Goals for a patient would be improvement and the constant search for “what would make them better?” — a frequent question asked by families. No one would mention in-depth comfort or quality of life.
I had always admired hospice nurses, not completely understanding myself (already a nurse) what hospice was all about. I believed hospice was called in when end of life meant almost end of shift.
I held various other roles, including working at a community clinic, public health facilities and home health agencies. When I had the opportunity to work firsthand with various hospice agencies, for the first time I had the audacity to believe I could be a hospice nurse.