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I had worked in the ICU for 17 years and was the “go-to” nurse to assist families in making the hardest decision regarding their loved one and their feelings on advanced directives and prolonging life. I was comfortable with talking about dying and the process. I decided to go back to school for a Masters in Psychology and shortly after starting my classes we had a 17 year old girl that was brain dead from an motor vehicle accident in which her mother was driving and hit black ice. The mother had no recollection of the accident nor that her daughter was in our ICU awaiting CORE. That left the 18 year old son and brother who was an EMT to make decisions.
I stayed after my shift and worked with providing support to the family as the other nurse provided care to the daughter. It was with this one event I realized there was not enough grief counseling and support for people in this area, for our families in the hospital needing to make such important decisions for themselves and their loved ones. Throughout the next few years I focused my internships on grief counseling, working with the Good Grief Center in Pittsburgh and a hospice bereavement counselor.
After graduation I opened my own office but one day after taking care of a patient for over a week while helping the family (who had been estranged) to come together for their dad and give him peace upon his death, the patient decided to go home on hospice with one condition. The condition was if I would follow the family and him home because he knew his death was imminent and wanted me there to help his children. That was when I realized hospice would be for me.
For me, hospice means the patients and families have taken the first step in the journey to keep them comfortable. It is for me then to support, educate and be an advocate for my patients as well as the families. With this more natural dying process you walk a fine line between what the patient is ready for and what the family is ready for which can be two very different ideas. Most importantly, the patient has to trust that you are their advocate even when the family doesn’t agree with their choices. I navigate all the dynamics of the families’ relationships to educate and ensure we can get to a common ground of acceptance for all. Once the patient and family realize they can trust me, can trust that as their hospice nurse I have their best interest at heart, they begin to accept the inevitable. If their loved one is relaxed and trusting that makes them feel better. Every patient wants to know that at the end of their life they will not suffer, will die with dignity, and have the support of their family. They also want to know that hospice will continue to support their loved one for as long as they need after their death. As long as I can provide my patients and their families with a peaceful death I will continue to do the job I love.
Compassion: What made you become to nurse? Is there a defining moment, or does the passion derive from a born desire to help people?
I wanted to further my education and do something in my career that is challenging, caring, giving, and makes a difference in people’s lives daily. In the skill of nursing, you deal with many aspects of patient care and I enjoy that variety in the routine. Specifically, I enjoy interacting with patients and their families and helping them through what is often a difficult time for them. This feeling is extremely satisfying for me.
I love what I do. It brings me comfort and happiness knowing that I have had a direct impact in someone else’s care, whether it be comfort at end of life, or just being able to hold their hand as they take their last breath. Ensuring that not only the patient be as comfortable as possible, but also being able to comfort the families is just as important. A person’s quality of life is of much value and deserves dignity and respect in their final days.
Families will always remember how their loved ones have passed. If they were comfortable? Were they peaceful? Each family that I have had the privilege to meet and cross paths with will have a special place in my heart, many families at times don’t get to see the things that I do when I am with their loved ones and for that, I am the lucky one.
Expertise: Is there something you specialize in as a nurse?
Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease has always been an area of nursing that I thoroughly enjoy. Getting to know
those of my patients with Dementia/Alzheimer’s, I am given the opportunity to be introduced to a person that their families don’t see. Every day is a new day to them, and even though they will never remember who I am long-term, I am able to make that moment meaningful to them.
My specialty is hospice care. It is the most rewarding to me, having the opportunity to provide care, comfort and support to my patients, to give emotional support to the families, and just being there during their time of need is what makes my heart full and reminds me of why I am here.
Trust: What does trust mean to you?
Trust is a combination of communication, comfort, peace of mind, confidence, and knowing no matter what, someone else has your best interest at heart.
Joe Lehner is our Director of Clinical Services here at Grane Hospice Altoona. Joe has worked for Grane Hospice for 2 years starting in Home Health and now transitioned to Hospice. He is a graduate of the Mount Aloysius Nursing program. He spent most of his career working on the SPCU. His favorite aspect about hospice care is being able to provide care and comfort to patients and families at such a special and fragile time of their lives.
Joe's favorite memory of his nursing career is when a home health patient called a week after being discharged saying how grateful they were of our services because they had no family at all, but he was able to provide the care needed within their home. We are so grateful to have Joe on our Grane Hospice Team!
Health care has always been a part of my life. I started in health care as a veterinary nurse, having practiced for 10 years with some incredible veterinarians, veterinary nurses/techs, and assistants. Working with animals taught me a lot about compassion and patience which furthered my interest in health care in the human world. I went back to school, earned my Associate of Science in Nursing degree, passed the boards exams to achieve my RN license, and a few years later, went on to earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
At the beginning of my nursing career, I worked as a staff nurse on a medical/oncology unit of a local hospital. During my tenure, I had the opportunity to care for hospice patients and their families and discovered end-of-life care is truly important. I found this opportunity rewarding and incredibly meaningful to me. In addition, during my time with the medical oncology unit, I cared for one of my loved ones with end-stage metastatic cancer. This experience gave me insight into what a profound period that end-of-life is and how crucial it is to provide the best possible care during this time. The care provided during this time will be forever imprinted on the families and loved ones left behind.
After my loved one’s passing, I rejoined the medical/oncology unit where, again, I stepped back into providing care for hospice patients. A year later, I made the decision to pursue hospice nursing full time as an RN Case Manager. I have held a variety of roles since rejoining hospice, including field RN Case Manager, Clinical management, and now I am the Intake Coordinator for Grane Hospice Care. I also earned my Certification in Hospice and Palliative Nursing and annually attend the Clinical Practice Forum hosted by the Hospice and Palliative Nursing Association. Hospice care is my passion and I cannot imagine doing anything else!
I have been with Grane Hospice for more than 2 years and I can truly say I have found my second home. The Grane Hospice team not only passionately advocates for their patients and families but also for their employees. Grane Hospice knows what is best for patients and caregivers and provides the best possible care. I’m proud of the skill and ability that my team shows and would, without hesitation, entrust the care of a loved one with them. I look forward to continuing my journey with the extraordinary people at Grane Hospice Care, and my continued work with our patients, families, and teams.
Hello, my name is Sabrina and I am the community liaison for the Grane Hospice York team. I primarily work in the Franklin and Adams counties. I was originally drawn to hospice due to my personal experience with hospice assisting my family, which allowed my dad to pass away in our home.
I have been with Grane Hospice for about 3 years and I am thankful to be part of an incredible team, and assist patients and their families by interpreting the hospice benefit to them. I feel blessed that I am able to provide our outstanding services to people in the community in which I live. My favorite compliments that I hear are about the “peace of mind” we give our families, and the ability for them to trust the care we provide not only the patient, but for the entire family.
Hello, my name is Cheryl Noonan and I am a RN Case Manager for Grane Hospice Harrisburg. I have been with the company for 8 years now and have never looked back. Throughout the years with Grane Hospice, I have come to realize that hospice nursing is what I was meant to do.
I became interested with this profession after losing my mother to lung cancer 16 years ago, which at that time, I had no hospice experience. However, my family elected hospice service into her home where she wanted to live the rest of her time. From the time she was diagnosed, she was given a month to live. Hospice was a miracle, having witnessed first-hand the comfort, caring, and compassion of individuals who work in this field. I knew while caring for my mother that I wanted to be a part of this special group. Over the last several years, I have had the privilege of working with such people.
My co-workers at Grane Hospice are exceptional people, with an undying vision to give the best possible care to their patients and families during an emotional and compelling moment of their lives. Being able to care for people at the end of their lives is a special gift and privilege. Every day, I come to work with pride. I am humbled and truly accept why I have been given this task of caring for the dying. Working for Grane Hospice has been a gift. The professional and emotional bonds that have been formed will stay with me for a lifetime. There have been many memories made and many tears shed. However, I would never want to work anywhere else or with any other team.
Grane has changed my life. My hope as the days and years move forward, that I may continue to touch lives and bring a small amount of comfort to my patients and families. When I receive a hug or watch a smile come from a sad and difficult moment that is what keeps me going. In life, we all need to remember to live to the fullest and remember it is the small acts of kindness that a person will remember.
I am still amazed about how my journey has brought me to Grane Hospice. I joined the Navy immediately out of high school and became a cryptologist, then later a Navy counselor. After I retired from the Navy, I became a Federal Police Officer for the United States Navy. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education, at the time thinking I wanted to be a teacher. So, after 8 years with the Federal Police Force, I was in the process of organizing a Chaplain’s program for the department. However, one day, as I was talking to someone about this goal, they offered me a part-time chaplain position. At first, I did not feel I had the qualifications to be a chaplain, but I gave it a shot. Over the next 6 months, I was Officer Searfoss by day, Chaplain Searfoss by night. I quickly realized that working two jobs (that I loved, might I add) began to take their toll. However, I was able to complete my doctorate at this time, now more than ever torn with what direction to take my life. I prayed and I prayed, realizing, one day, it was the time I had to make a decision. Shortly after, I walked into the Chief of Police’s office and handed him my two-week notice. To many’s disbelief, and my own, I walked away from a federal job to be a full-time Hospice Chaplain. That was almost 16 years ago.
Over the years, I have learned that being a part of, and caring for, people on their journey with death is a privilege. It is something I do not take lightly; with humility and compassion, I strive to make every journey as peaceful as possible. I have learned so much from my fellow team members, families and patients that I marvel at the blessings I have been given through this hospice journey.
Because I am a Navy Veteran, there is a special place in my heart for our military veterans. Hearing their stories and listening to history from their point-of-view is something I find both fascinating and exciting. Therefore, I love that Grane Hospice is a partner with the We Honor Veterans Program.
All in all, I work for Grane Hospice because it is the best hospice in Pennsylvania in my opinion, and I only work for the best! So, whether I am saying a prayer, singing a hymn, photographing a special event, play DJ at a Halloween party, or dressed as Santa Claus, there is no other hospice or group of people I would rather do it with than my family at Grane Hospice Care.
“In 2005, I was encouraged by a long-time pastor friend to consider becoming a Hospice Chaplain. My friend felt that I would be good in this kind of ministry. I was told about Grane Hospice just beginning and applied and was hired as their first Chaplain and Bereavement Counselor in August 2005. Now, nearly 15 years later, I have thoroughly enjoyed being not only a Chaplain to our patients and their families but also the Director of Chaplain and Bereavement Services, leading a dedicated team providing quality end of life care.
A daily guiding prayer for me has been what I like to call “My 4 Ps”. I ask God that my patients, their families and the facilities would sense the Presence of God, the Peace of God, the Promises of God and/or the Power of God from my visits. Through the years there have been special relationships that I will never forget.
Early on I had one patient who told me that she was thankful for her terminal illness. When asked why she was thankful for such a diagnosis she replied, ‘If it wasn’t for my illness I would never have met you and regained my faith in God.’ Then she asked me if I would do her funeral, which I did.
Then there was one man who declined my very first visit but after praying for him and visiting over the next 3 months, one day when I arrived he said to me that he ‘was afraid to die.’ I asked him why he was afraid and he said ‘because I do not know where I am going.’ He asked about what heaven and hell were like, I explained it to him and he said he wanted to go to heaven and he prayed right then asking God to forgive him through Jesus Christ. Two days later, he died. His daughters were thankful of what their father did with Jesus Christ before he died.
Then there was a young man, 20 years my younger who was dying. It was a late Friday afternoon. I knelt by his bedside, he was physically tired, it was evident on his face. He said he was tired and was ready to go to heaven to be with Jesus. I replied, ‘I know.’ Then he said this, ‘Mike, when I die, do not be sad for me.’ A provocative statement, I had to ask him, why? Then he said, ‘Because I will see you again!’ I looked at him and said, ‘Now who is ministering to whom?’ We both smiled and early on Sunday morning he went to heaven. I will, indeed, see him again!
Then there was one day, as I arrived at one of our nursing homes, the receptionist said ‘Mike, when you are here there is peace in the building.’ Of all the benefits from knowing God, along with His love, it is His peace that people need, not only in dying but also in living.”