PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 8

FEATURE
Offering Care, Compassion
and Support:
CARING FOR PATIENTS
AT END OF LIFE
By Rochelle A. Shenk
There's a special bond between a nurse and a patient. When the care
is centered on providing patients with dignity and compassion as
they face the end of life, the bond becomes immeasurable. For many
hospice health care providers, caring for a patient in their final phase
of life is a privilege. As hospice and palliative care have become a
vital part of the continuum of care, Pennsylvania College of Health
Sciences focuses its curriculum on preparing students for end-oflife
care - both educationally and emotionally. PA College alumni
and students share their perspectives on the importance of helping
patients die with dignity.
A Rewarding Career
Elissa Gontero Dougherty '10, RN,
CHPN, is currently Director of Access
with Hospice & Community Care
in Lancaster. She began her career in
nursing after transitioning from retail
and secretarial positions. It was one
of her positions, where she provided
support to a director of nursing, that
piqued her interest in nursing. Her
nursing career began in a critical unit
and then shifted to oncology.
" I like being able to give people hope,
and I began to take a closer look at
the hospice nurses and the palliative
care team members I saw on the
floor, " Dougherty says. " Every person
deserves dignity and a peaceful death.
Helping make that happen is incredibly
important to me. "
She stresses that the work is not
depressing. " We're making sure the
patient's end of life is exactly how they
want it to go. Being able to be with that
person at the end of their life is a gift,
and it's incredibly important, " she says.
Laura Burns '18, RN, currently serves
as Hospice & Community Care's
pediatric team leader. Prior to entering
the nursing field, she was a pediatric
dental assistant. " Nursing was always
something I wanted to do. I put it on
the back burner after I got married and
had kids, but I never forgot about it, "
she says.
After starting her nursing career on
a hospital medical-surgical floor, she
moved to hospice nursing in December
2019. Being involved in end-of-life
care was not on her radar when she
graduated from nursing school, but
watching and speaking with hospice
nurses, she realized how much they
do for the patients and families. Her
hospice position evolved to pediatric
hospice care. " I get to help families be
families, and parents just be parents, "
she explains.
Being a hospice nurse is a multifaceted
position. Dougherty says nurses
keep the patient comfortable and
give them a peaceful passing. It's also
an opportunity to educate people,
including family members, about death
and dying and to normalize the fact
that people will go through certain
processes as they are dying. " It's less
frightening and scary for everybody, "
she says.
8
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PA College Magazine - Summer 2022

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PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Cover1
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - Contents
PA College Magazine - Summer 2022 - 1
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