When patients, their families or our partners call JourneyCare, I am often the first person that answers the phone and my goal is to make them feel at ease.
In that important first contact, a caller should expect to speak with a professional, compassionate and knowledgeable person who is there to really listen and help connect them to
the services they need. Depending on each family’s individual need, we will connect them with the most appropriate resource.
Often it takes courage to call JourneyCare. Because of this, we assure everyone who calls that a team member can meet with them that same day. We meet them wherever they are – at home, the hospital, or another care facility.
From the moment they make that first call, we want our patients, their families and our partners to know they are not alone.
The most rewarding part of my work is hearing the relief in each person’s voice by the end of our conversation. It feels good to know that I gave them reassurance and connected them with the support they need. We want our patients, their families and our partners to know we are only a phone call away, to know that we care, and that we are working as a team to achieve the best
outcome for them.
I often call our Nurse Liaisons and Admissions team “the first faces of JourneyCare.” We are on the front line and are among the first people patients and families meet from our agency. We help patients and their families as they make the decision to choose hospice, and connect them with their care teams.
Hospice is really my heart. It is an honor to advocate for people at such a critical moment in their lives. I believe our role is to help patients understand that – although their doctor has made a
referral for hospice – that simply means hospice is a choice to focus on quality of life. It is not “giving up.” Instead, hospice helps patients live each day to the fullest, by having their symptoms managed with expert care, so they can carry out their wishes.
We meet with patients and families wherever they are, whether at home, a hospital or another care facility. And when I meet a family, my goal is to bring peace in the middle of uncertainty and fear. I always ask “What is your understanding about why we are meeting today?” That lets me know where they are, not only regarding their understanding of hospice, but emotionally. I work to have a heartfelt discussion about their goals of care and their wishes. Once I understand their needs, I am able to show them how JourneyCare can individualize their care to meet those needs.
Ultimately, our team meets people when they have just received news they never want to hear. Often they feel all hope has been taken away. We work to bring hope, to show them that their journey is our journey, too. We want them to understand we are here to hold their hand and walk with them every step of the way.
After more than a decade working in hospice, an important part of my role is to understand who each patient is, the role their families play, and how that will impact the care each patient receives.
Each family comes with so much history, as well as complicated dynamics and different communication methods. Learning about this – as well as their values, cultural and religious considerations – helps our care teams develop a plan of care. We learn what is important to them. So many people come to hospice and say “I am here for comfort.” But we must figure out what comfort means to
them. Our work is about communication, education, setting goals for patients and families and prioritizing those goals. It is different for everyone. Some people are worried about getting their
affairs in order, while others might be focused on things that have been left unsaid to their loved ones. Maybe it’s about closure, or it could even be about honoring a celebration that is important to them, like a birthday.
We may have to approach a situation and compassionately say “You may not make it to your birthday, but is there a way we can celebrate now?” We work in this way to help families find meaning and peace.
We also help families understand the normalcy of what is happening in hospice – to give them permission to talk about death and dying. So often I sit with families and they thank us for using concrete words about loss, helping them talk about what is happening in honest terms and without euphemism.
The gratification of my job is not always immediate, because families need time to heal. I know things have gone well if, months down the road, a family looks back at one of the most challenging times of their lives and feels good about it. That makes my work meaningful.