PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 11

PA COLLEGE / FEATURE
First Person
By Elissa Gontero Dougherty '10, RN, CHPN
Director of Access, Hospice & Community Care
When I drive around Lancaster County, I see dead
people. Specifically, I see dead people's houses. I'm not a
paranormal investigator or even a weirdo. I'm a hospice
nurse. Everywhere I go, there's a story. The names and faces
may run together, but the memories make for interesting
travel companions.
I'd never been on a drive so beautiful. I was so grateful for
the opportunity every week that I thanked the patient for
living down such a gorgeous lane. We debated if it looked
nicest in the spring when the blossoms fell, or in the fall as
the leaves turned and eventually dropped.
Once a winter storm found me only driving a handful of
miles but needing to get pushed out of four different drifts
because my poor Volkswagen simply couldn't handle it.
One of my patients was desperately low on medication for
his terminal restlessness, and the pharmacy couldn't make
any deliveries. We were able to secure the medication, and
through a series of handoffs, get it to my patient, who had a
much calmer night thanks to our ingenuity.
Not all of the memories are happy ones. I know that it
might seem strange for a hospice nurse to be upset when a
patient dies by suicide, but we take it personally. The house
could be gone, but I'd still remember that sometimes we are
not enough. She haunts me, but I still keep trying.
Most of my memories and my patients make me smile.
On a January morning, I drove up Route 222 with my
heater on full blast - one hand on the steering wheel, and
one hand clutching misshapen rubber catheters as I tried
to thaw my supplies before I got to my patient. That's not
too far from the man who lived to pull pranks on everyone
(especially his wife). One snowy afternoon he called, asking
for " his nurse " to hurry out. He'd fallen and cut his hand
while shoveling. As I approached the front door, I saw an
alarmingly long trail of red droplets. My heart rate rose as
my stomach fell, and I mentally inventoried my wound care
supplies. Inventory abruptly stopped after I opened the door
and saw my gentleman giggling, juice box in hand, as he
waved his relatively unscathed hands at me (one band aid!).
" Got you good, didn't I? " He did, and I laugh every time I'm
in his neighborhood.
It's true, I see dead people everywhere in the county, but on
the whole, I'm glad I do. I've been able to help countless
patients and families through the end of life, which is every
bit as rewarding and as intense as the start of life.
It's true, I see dead people
everywhere in the county,
but on the whole,
I'm glad I do.
"
"
PA College Magazine / Summer 2022
11

PA College Magazine - Summer 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of PA College Magazine - Summer 2022

Contents
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Cover1
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Contents
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 1
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 2
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 3
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 4
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 5
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 6
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 7
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 8
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 9
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 10
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 11
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 12
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 13
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 14
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 15
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 16
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Cover3
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Cover4
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