Celebrating National Nurses Week: Betsy’s Story

Posted by Nancy Peter, Social Worker

Celebrating National Nurses Week: Betsy’s Story

We're celebrating National Nurses Week and all of JourneyCare’s extraordinary nurses! Social Worker Nancy Peter shares how JourneyCare Nurse Betsy Brennan exemplifies the dedication, expertise and compassion of our entire JourneyCare nursing team!

I was asked to write a blog about National Nurses Week and feel honored to do so. I’d like to share about an amazing Registered Nurse (RN) who works at the Pepper Family Hospice Care Center in Barrington, Betsy Brennan, RN, CHPN. Her experiences reflect so much of what nursing is about that it translates to all our wonderful JourneyCare RNs.

Betsy BrennanBetsy graduated from McHenry County College in May of 2015 and hospice has been her primary focus for the four years since. During school, she completed a very impactful community health nursing rotation in hospice.

Just before her graduation, her father became very ill. Betsy wanted to provide his care, but unfortunately, he died before she could take this on. Both of these experiences have had a profound effect on how Betsy cares for patients and why hospice became the role she wanted to pursue.

During one of Betsy’s clinical rotations while in school, she cared for a woman living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) who was wheelchair-bound and unable to communicate verbally. She had a spa bath and the look of enjoyment and relaxation on her face was amazing. Betsy’s job was to hold her patient’s head and protect her airway. 

The woman had long hair and, after the bath, her husband was lovingly combing it.  Betsy noticed he started at the top and his wife began grimacing in pain. Betsy gently suggested a detangler and starting from the bottom. After her hair was sufficiently combed, Betsy suggested a side braid, which would not interfere with the patient’s comfort as her head lay on her pillow. 

Then, Betsy held a mirror up for the woman and she once again exuded a remarkable look of gratitude and satisfaction. Betsy told her, “You look absolutely beautiful” and she could tell by the patient’s expression that she felt as beautiful as she looked. 

After sharing these tender moments with this remarkable woman and her devoted husband, Betsy knew she wanted to do hospice.

Betsy’s father had a very poor experience in the hospital just before he died. He was not medicated for pain for 15 hours, despite intense advocacy from Betsy. A new doctor took over and scheduled medication and – while on hospice – Betsy’s father died a peaceful death in the hospital. 

This strongly motivated Betsy to ensure no other patient would have to endure what her father did. With each patient that Betsy sees, her father is there. And because of what he experienced, her patients do not suffer. Her motto is, “Not on my watch.” 

Prior to becoming a nurse, Betsy was a flight attendant. She was injured on the job experiencing hand-to-hand electrocution during a flight. She developed RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy), which induced chronic and severe pain along with nerve issues. This went on for several years, leaving her unable to work. The experience though, provides her a level of understanding and compassion for people in pain. 

Betsy’s favorite part of nursing is hands-on patient care. Getting to know her patients and their families helps her understand how best to proceed forward to meet their needs. Betsy brings a personal touch when talking with patients and, often, that brings personal remark in return – one of the most important pieces of information to gain.

Through this type of communication, Betsy learned a patient was upset that her bird was home alone in the heat of the summer. Within three hours, a volunteer was at the patient’s home rescuing the bird and the pet was brought to one of our inpatient CareCenters, happily cared for by staff.

The bird was also going to need a new home and – through a series of fortuitous events and Betsy serving as a conduit – Angelo, a JourneyCare team member, was able to adopt the bird for his grandfather who had recently lost both his wife and pet bird. Now, the bird brings joy to Angelo’s grandfather every day.

“Nursing is so rewarding in so many ways,” Betsy says. “Knowing I can be of to service someone and help them through the most difficult time of their life reminds me I am the lucky one: I get to go home at night, while families have to remain and watch their loved ones at the end of life. 

“When I hear someone say I am an angel, or ‘I don’t know how you do this work,’ again I am reminded of being lucky. It’s a different mindset. We are not curing or rehabilitating; we are helping them live with dignity and comfort in their last days, weeks and months.  To be able to do this is so rewarding and it truly does make me the lucky one.”

When asked if she feels appreciated in her work, she talked about the gratitude she receives from patients and families and describes it as humbling. 

Betsy reflects the high quality of nursing care exemplified by all the nurses at JourneyCare. A focus on dignity, compassion, quality of life and goals of care – all delivered with a personal touch  ̶  are hallmarks of our nurses.

In the field or at a CareCenter, our JourneyCare nurses bring joy and comfort to all they serve. We couldn’t be more appreciative of what they do and are so happy to celebrate National Nurses Week! We humbly thank all of you!

JourneyCare is available to anyone in our community who might have questions  ̶  24 hours a day, seven days a week. Contact us online or at 224-770-2489.

Visit our website to learn more about care options for living with serious illness.

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