Shared Stories Bring Meaning, Joy at End of Life

Note: As we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6 – 12), we’ve asked veteran nurse Trudy Miller to reflect on what drew her to nursing, why she chose hospice nursing, and what inspires her.

 

Nurse Trudy Miller speaks with patient at Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln Massachusetts

Trudy Miller, RN team leader, speaks with a patient at the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln, MA.

I love meeting people, and my job as a hospice nurse connects me with people from all walks of life, in the final stages of life.

 

I have learned that every single hospice patient has a story. Although the stories can be vastly different, at the end of life, there is joy in the stories of a life well lived.

 

When I was a hospice admissions liaison nurse, I visited patients in their homes. Many would point to pictures and paintings of boats, houses, dogs, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and family gatherings. They would recount the moment a picture was taken or recall the history of the item featured in the photograph. I particularly liked to look at, and hear about, old black-and-white photos of the patient. If they were married, I would ask, “How did the two of you meet?” Their short-term memory may have been fading but remembrances of younger days remained sharp.

 

Once I met a former well-known newspaper editor who won a Pulitzer Prize. He talked about his work and was most proud of the journalism that occurred during the Watergate period. He also talked about the time he traveled to China with President Nixon. He recalled his beloved late wife and the painting that he did of her in the backyard. Of course, the painting was of her back because he couldn’t draw faces! He laughed about that.

 

Found my calling as a hospice nurse

 

Before I became a hospice nurse, I worked in hospital intensive care units and emergency departments.  I have seen traumatic deaths, unexpected deaths and long drawn-out deaths because the families were unable to let go.

 

When people learn that I am a hospice nurse, they often ask, “Isn’t it depressing because everyone dies?”

 

I don’t find it depressing at all. I find it liberating in that I can allow patients and families to choose a quality of life that they didn’t believe was possible. I am so happy that they can stay in their residence with their loved ones nearby and make the most of every day. I have never regretted making the switch to hospice nursing and I have found my calling.

 

The theme of this year’s National Nurses Week is “Nurses: Inspire, Innovate, Influence.”  As a team lead at the new Care Dimensions Hospice House, I’m here to help our doctors, nurses and aides any way I can. I also support patients and families with a calm and reassuring presence during a difficult time. And maybe, if you are a nurse, my story will inspire you to consider hospice nursing.

 

Want to learn more about what it’s like to work for Care Dimensions? Visit the Careers section of our website.

Trudy Miller, RN, CHPN, is the RN Team Leader at the Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln, MA.

2 comments on “Shared Stories Bring Meaning, Joy at End of Life
  1. Patricia A Ahern says:

    This is a great article, Trudy! Thanks for sharing! Pat Ahern

  2. Barbara E. Miller says:

    as your mum in law and Stuarts mum Iam really proud of you and your work . I speak also for your father in law as he died some years ago, I am sure he would have loved your work ethic. he taught in family medicine at Mcmaster university and at the time of his death was director of family practice unit at St Josephs hospital in Hamilton Ont. As a retired Occupational Therapist I completely understand your statements re your career in palliative care. your patients are lucky to be a part of your care.

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"Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts."