A Hospice Nurse - Alice's Story - Heart 'n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

A Hospice Nurse – Alice’s Story

For the last fifteen years, Heart ‘n Home employees have been assisting patients and their families during the final years, months, and moments of their lives. Our company has been blessed by the service of so many genuinely compassionate employees. They love their job and the people that they get to work with. As we celebrate our 15th Anniversary we asked Alice, a Nurse who has been part of the Heart ‘n Home family most of the 15 years, to share about her experience.

“I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was in high school. I’m not really sure what got me thinking on that track,  I didn’t really know any nurses, and I grew up in a small community with our nearest hospital 90 miles away. I was a farm/ranch girl and I just knew when I graduated, I wanted to kick the dirt of that small town off my boots.  I graduated from high school and two weeks later I was taking prerequisite classes at Salt Lake Technical School.  I had been accepted into the LPN program that would start in September, a year later I was an LPN at my first job in a nursing home. This is where I had my first experience with death, I still remember my first patient death. 

I spent two years trying to get into an RN program with no luck, instead, I ended up getting to marry the man of my dreams.  I worked full time putting my husband through school by working in a small hospital in Salt Lake City in their pediatric/women’s center unit (This was back in the day when babies still spent the night in the nursery, and kids spent the night when they got their tonsils out!). Later we moved and I took about 10 years off to be at home with my kids. When my husband got too ill to work I went back to school to get my RN. I graduated from Peninsula College while working at an assisted living facility where I later became the Director of Nursing.  In 2006, our family relocated to Oregon and I took some time off from being a nurse to be a cowgirl. It was there that I was asked by a friend if I would like to work part-time for Heart ‘n Home Hospice. I hired on in 2008. My orientation consisted of one day in the Fruitland office, spent mostly with Tina Tubbs and Cindy Lee teaching me Hospice 101 and hospice philosophy.  I was the only one in the class. What a privilege to learn from Cindy Lee, who I consider a master hospice nurse and teacher. I wanted to have the kind of passion that she demonstrated. 

I love the connection we are able to make with our patients and families. I use to say, ‘Don’t send me to do an admit unless you want me to be the nurse’ because of the connection that is made in that first encounter. Patients and families have asked me “How do you do this? Isn’t it depressing?” my response is usually “Look at the wonderful people I get to meet and serve, this is a privilege!”  I feel that I have great empathy for those who are losing loved ones, those who are grieving, and those preparing for death.  My family has always been open about the discussion of death, but being a Hospice Nurse has really broadened that discussion and the ability to talk openly about death and dying.   

I have had several memorable patients that will stay in my heart, those that tore at my heart strings when they passed away and those I will not forget.  I remember one 16-year-old boy (same age as one of my sons at the time) who was dying and he wanted a haircut. My daughter who was a Volunteer at the time and cosmetologist went on a co-visit with me and she cut his hair. We laughed and talked like he was just another teenage boy. This really broke the ice and he seemed to open up to me after that.  His dad who he lived with wanted him to live and to try harder. The boy’s biggest concern was his father.  My last conversation with the patient was that he didn’t want his dad to be alone.  Luckily with hospice, his father was going to have support.  He died two days later. He hadn’t come out of his room and his dad didn’t want to go in his room, so he called us. I was not on duty so thankfully our after hours Nurse, Seth, was able to assist this father at his most difficult time. I will never forget this boy and his father. It was a pretty emotional death for me.

In hospice, we have rewarding times and some emotional times. To disconnect or unwind I love to spend time with my family. I have 5 children and 11 grandchildren. We gather to eat, watch movies, and play board games.  In my spare time I like to read, sew, bake, and garden. 

I love Heart ‘n Home. I love hospice. I value life and as much as I love to be busy, I have to remind myself what is most important.   Human connection and kindness are never wrong.

Alice S., Nurse

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