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.
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.