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Practicing Medicine, Practicing Humanity

Practicing Medicine, Practicing Humanity

My career as a physician has paired me with many facets of medicine. I have explored private family practice, treated patients in nursing homes and even treated infants. Each of these are wonderful and worthy specialties, but I never felt the visceral connection to them that I feel with hospice and palliative care.

This work is a calling. And as JourneyCare celebrates our physicians this month, I celebrate my colleagues who also feel called to serve patients facing serious illness or the end of life.

Celebrations of Life

I joined the JourneyCare Foundation five weeks ago, helping the Foundation raise funds to cover uncompensated care. Because I’m not a clinician and I don’t work in any of our other patient or family facing departments, I quickly realized that in order to be most effective, I needed to find a way to keep patients front and center in my mind and never lose sight of my “why” for being at JourneyCare. I brought in a photo of my Nana who passed away eight years ago after seven years of round-the-clock care by my family. We didn’t know about hospice or palliative care services. I joined JourneyCare because I want to help ensure other families don't go through such a physically and emotionally painful ordeal alone.

In my short time at JourneyCare, I’ve discovered that we go over and above to provide extra care and services that patients and their families don’t even realize they need or want, but which help provide comfort. One of these extras has been particularly impactful on me.

Managing Caregiver Stress

Managing Caregiver Stress

I’ve been employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for the past 25 years. I never thought I would work as a CNA for this long, but when you have passion for what you do, it’s easy to find comfort in your work. It gives me great pleasure to serve the people within my community. If I can put a smile on someone’s face each day, that makes my life worth living.

But at times, there are occasions when being a caregiver can be stressful. To reduce stress when caring for others, I first take the time to take care of my own well-being.

A CNA’s Journey

I've been a CNA since 1984, with 12 of those years dedicated to hospice. I have always enjoyed caring for people. My motto is: You get out of self by doing for others. My belief is that we are here to serve one another to the best of our ability.

This journey has been comforting. The name JourneyCare is so fitting — because the CNAs that are in the field are always on a journey to give care to another person. It has been a blessing that a group of individuals can come together as a team and be able to comfort, while respecting patient and family needs.

Hospice and Palliative Care for All

Hospice and Palliative Care for All

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.

Hospice Admissions...In the Beginning

Hospice Admissions...In the Beginning

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.

We’re All Mortals. Let’s Plan Ahead.

We’re All Mortals. Let’s Plan Ahead.

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a nationwide initiative that aims to help people across the U.S. understand the value of advance healthcare planning.

I want to tell you about why I'm passionate about advance directives, with a hint of my irreverent sense of humor to boot.

Advance directives should be filled out when we are healthy and lucid. They should not be something we hastily prepare as our stretcher is being loaded into an ambulance.

They don't affect our everyday lives or even take effect until we are unable to make healthcare decisions for ourselves. How many people end up being non-decisional at some point? I’ve worked at the JourneyCare’s Pepper Family Hospice CareCenter in Barrington for five years now, and I can say, without exaggeration, that everyone reaches a point wherein they are unable to make decisions for themselves. This appears to only apply to mortals. So far, I have been alive for 29 years and it appears that everyone is mortal, possibly even including myself.

A Welcome Guest in Lives of Patients and Families

A Welcome Guest in Lives of Patients and Families

Everyone has heard the words “social work” and “social worker," but do you know what they really mean? When I was growing up, I thought social workers were men and women who wanted to devote their lives working in underprivileged countries helping poor people enrich their lives.

Well, I grew up and learned I wasn’t completely wrong. And after 20 plus years as a social worker, I continue to learn everyday what social work and being a social worker truly mean.

As a hospice social worker I wear many hats. I am a noun, verb, adverb and adjective. I'm a counselor, confidante, advocate, researcher and resource. I'm a cheerleader, motivator, listener, party planner, wedding coordinator and dream maker.

Mainly, I am a humbled and privileged, invited guest into the lives of patients and families who I've been honored to know over the years. Here are a few of them:

Nannette Ramirez

I was born in El Paso on an Army base, moved back to Puerto Rico and then to my forever home, Chicago. I am a single mother of a wonderful eight-year-old boy who I named after her late grandfather, Antonio. The first few months of working for hospice was a definite adjustment and now, 15 years later, I can’t imagine my life without it.

Let Your Spirit Soar

This year marks our country’s 250th Independence Day. But when’s the last time something made you feel good and hopeful about our country? With the senseless violence and crazy political climate we’ve witnessed in recent months, it’s often been hard to feel positive.

But I found an antidote! Volunteer with Honor Flight.

As JourneyCare's We Honor Veterans program coordinator, I frequently interact with other veteran-serving organizations. And there’s no other volunteer experience quite like serving as a guardian for a veteran on an Honor Flight.

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