How I Became A Hospice Nurse

| By Casa de la Luz

Many years ago when I was Director of Patient Care in a small hospital and nursing home in Wisconsin, my boss stopped in my office and asked if I would be interested in riding along with him to Madison the next day. He was headed to a meeting, and he had just heard that Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross would be speaking at the university and he’d be glad to drop me off there

I had read Dr. Kübler-Ross’s book, “On Death and Dying,” in which she described the five stages of grief. I was delighted to have an opportunity to meet her in person so I eagerly accepted the offer.

Listening to this presentation was a life-changing experience for me. This small, soft-spoken, humble lady was so powerful in her description of her work with dying patients, and her great desire to assist other health care professionals do a better job of helping dying patients and their families through that final journey.  Being able to talk so freely about death was such a new and thought-provoking concept to me.

Some time later, a decision was made to close our nursing home and move patients and staff to a brand new facility that was being built in the community. The nursing home move was completed smoothly and now came the big question. What were we going to do with all of that empty space?

An idea was forming in my mind, so I traveled to the Twin Cities area and visited a couple of inpatient hospice units and gathered information about what was involved in starting a hospice program. I then wrote a proposal to the Board of Directors of the hospital to consider starting a hospice program in some of the vacant space. There was a very good RN on the staff who had hospice experience and was eager to head up this program. Lo and behold, the board unanimously approved the project. The RN was given six months to develop policies and procedures and get Medicare approval. Hospital auxiliary members were excited to work with the architect on remodeling the seven-bed inpatient unit into a beautiful, home-like place. Medicare approval was received, the state surveyors gave their approval, staff members were trained, and many volunteers came forward to receive training and to become part of this wonderful program.  

Fast forward to a move to Tucson. I thought I only wanted to work part-time so I accepted a position as a part-time Utilization Review nurse. Like many part-time jobs, this one soon became full-time. Ultimately, I became supervisor of utilization review for a large HMO, but my love of hospice was always there.

I had met Lynette and Agnes, the co-founders of Casa de la Luz Hospice, and heard a lot about Casa de la Luz. I submitted an application to them when I became tired of my cross-town commute and was ready for a change.

One particularly busy day, I received a call from Agnes asking if I’d like to interview for a job as a case manager on the Facilities Team and the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve been with Casa for more than six years and love this work.  Getting back to my roots in patient care after so many years in management was very rewarding.  I have made many friends in the facilities I visit and the wonderful patients and their families are priceless.  So many people ask me if this job is depressing, but I can honestly tell them that almost every day it gives me something to smile about.  Being part of the final journey is truly an honor and privilege. 

(Editor’s Note: If you are seeking a career in hospice nursing, please visit our Careers page to learn more about position openings with Casa de la Luz Hospice.) 

By Julie Lohman, RN

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