Training the Next Generation of Hospice-Minded Doctors

My name is Dr. Lucia Jander. I am the medical director for Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. You may know that Hospicare provides hospice, palliative care, and grief support to people living in Cortland and Tompkins counties, but did you know that we also recently started a new program training medical residents?

Since May of 2021, Hospicare has been working with Dr. Janette Lee of Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) to train a new generation of doctors in the Internal Medicine Residency program. These young doctors are doing their Geriatric Rotation at Hospicare.

Dr. Lucia Jander speaks with Dr. Priyesh Thakurathi, a CMC resident participating in the Geriatric Rotation at Hospicare.

My own professional interest in hospice came from an elective rotation in my residency. There is no formal requirement to have a hospice experience, but clearly it is very helpful for future internists in the community to understand these issues.

Let me explain the difference between hospice and palliative care: Hospice is a subset of palliative care for people who are at the end of life, generally with a 6-month prognosis. Palliative care can be delivered for several years before patients qualify for hospice. It is a special care for people with severe and chronic illnesses and can be given concurrently with curative care. The goal of palliative care is to help with symptom management, allow for open communication, and improve a patient’s quality of life.

During this semester-long rotation, CMC residents spend time in a long-term care facility, perform home hospice visits, come to our hospice residence, and are introduced to working in an interdisciplinary health care team. The goal of the rotation is to develop knowledge, skills, and the interpersonal communication needed to provide effective and compassionate care to patients receiving our services. Residents gain a broader understanding of the difference between hospice and palliative care.

During the Geriatric Rotation, CMC residents learn ways to help patients stay at home, improve their quality of life, and help them understand their illness, which may result in decreased hospitalizations or trips to the emergency room. I think it is important to remind trainees that 99% of patients’ lives are spent outside of the hospital; this may seem an obvious statement, but when residents are in the middle of their training, they are seeing the worst 1% of people’s lives when they are in crisis-medical misery. My hope is that the outpatient geriatric rotation helps CMC resident’s understand what matters most to their geriatric patients and ways to improve their quality of life.

Dr. Priyesh Thakurathi, a CMC resident meets with a patient at the Hospicare residence.

My primary goals are to teach trainees to understand their patients’ priorities (which may be vastly different from the healthcare team’s priorities) and help them recognize how much social factors influence patients’ lives – much more than our medical interventions.

CMC residents become incorporated into the Hospicare team. They join our nurses and social workers on their workday. The more exposure they have to Hospicare, the higher likelihood they will appreciate the help hospice provides for their patients, give prompt referrals for those who will benefit from hospice and palliative services, and stay in the community as primary care practitioners starting next July.

We are very glad to be able to train the next generation of doctors!

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 5) – Sarah Nickerson, Communications Coordinator

A Special Blog Series Written by Hospicare & Palliative Care Services Staff

This November, we started a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Because we had such a positive response to the series, we are continuing it past November and into 2022. Each post features a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part five of this series, we feature Sarah Nickerson, Hospicare Communications Coordinator.

Sarah Nickerson, Hospicare Communications Coordinator

“Hi, my name is Sarah Nickerson, and I am Hospicare’s new communications coordinator. I spent the summer helping Hospicare’s development team with Women Swimmin’ as the seasonal events assistant, and was hired into my current role by Sara Worden, director of development and community relations, in November. I am so excited to take on this role and help share the amazing work our team does and stories of the people we serve!

My relationship with Hospicare began many years ago. In my early twenties, I accompanied my mother, who was a Hospicare volunteer, to a bereavement group for children held at the residence on Kind Road. A few years later, I proudly waited on shore while she swam across Cayuga Lake as a participant in Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. In the summer of 2018, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and given less than a year to live. We were fortunate enough to be able to move her into Hospicare’s residence for the final months of her life. Having my mother in care at the residence allowed us to be with her as loved ones and not caretakers, which we were ill equipped to be. Hospicare became a home away from home in those last two months before my mother’s death: a safe space filled with love, where I could be nurtured by community.

The amazing care that was given to my mother and to our entire family by Hospicare’s staff stays with me and is why I am so honored to be part of this team today. I look forward to continuing to help Hospicare provide our community with compassionate end-of-life care and grief support.”

I took this photo of my father holding my mother’s hand while she was in care in the residence at King Road just a few weeks before her death on Valentine’s Day of 2019.

***If you have a hospice or Hospicare story you want to share, please email Sarah Nickerson at snickerson@hospicare.org for more information or send a letter to:

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services

Attn: Sarah Nickerson

172 East King Rd

Ithaca, NY 14850

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 4) – Anna Osterhoudt, Social Worker

A Special Blog Series in Honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

This November, we are sharing a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Each post will feature a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part four of this series, we feature Anna Osterhoudt, Hospicare Social Worker.

Anna Osterhoudt, Hospicare Social Worker

“My name is Anna, and I am one of three social workers that are a part of the Hospicare team. My role as a hospice social worker is to assess the needs of our patients, their families, and support systems and provide any assistance I can. A few examples of things that I may assist with are providing emotional support to patients/caregivers, connecting them with community resources, assisting with end-of-life planning, or just being a friendly face during what can be a very difficult time.

I have been working professionally as a social worker in the medical field for the last eight years. However, I only recently joined Hospicare & Palliative Care Services three months ago. Making the decision to join Hospicare was not a difficult one as I have grown to be very passionate about hospice work, both professionally and personally. It is truly an honor and a blessing to be on this journey and to be a part of someone’s final chapters on this earth. 

With the right support, death and dying can be a spiritual, dignified, and peaceful experience. To be able to be a part of that experience and offer support and solace to patients, caregivers, and families during that time is a privilege that I cherish. It can also be scary, emotional, and trying but what is so special about Hospicare is that no matter what the experience is, which is very different for everyone, we are never alone. As a team we support each other, the patients, their families and caregivers, other agency staff, you name it, we are never left to handle it alone.  So why did I choose to work in hospice? There is a saying ‘Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ I was lucky enough to find that job with Hospicare.”

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 3) – Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services

A Special Blog Series in Honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

This November, we are sharing a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Each post will feature a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part three of this series, we feature Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services.

Wendy Yettru, Manager of Volunteer Services

“Hi, my name is Wendy and I’m the Manager of Volunteer Services at Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. When I started working here, over 20 years ago, I didn’t know much about hospice. It didn’t take long for me to see firsthand how the amazing team of professionals, including our volunteers, provides comfort physically, emotionally, and spiritually for our patients and their families. I believe in the philosophy that hospice is there so that patients may live as fully and comfortably as possible while facing end of life.

My position allows me the privilege of educating and working with community members who want to give their time and talents to Hospicare. I have enjoyed getting to know hundreds of people in Cortland and Tompkins counties as they learn about hospice and how their role as a volunteer makes a difference. Volunteers may offer to run an errand so a caregiver can have more time with their loved one; they may listen to a patient’s life stories, engage in conversation, play a game, help with a task, or be a quiet presence so someone doesn’t have to be alone. I have had the pleasure of hearing and witnessing many beautiful stories about the connections that happen between our volunteers and patients. I am honored to work with such an amazing organization and people!”

Why I Work in Hospice (Part 2) – Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN

A Special Blog Series in Honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month

This November, we are sharing a special blog series written by Hospicare staff in honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month. Each post will feature a different member of our staff as they share why they love the work they do. In part two of this series, we feature Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN.

Suzy Quinones, Hospicare RN

“My role here at Hospicare is to help patients live the rest of their lives as comfortably as possible and to help ensure their wishes are fulfilled. Providing education and suggestions for patients and their families about how best to meet that patient’s specific needs and how to manage their symptoms adequately. Every patient is different, so I like to customize my care to best fit each patient’s needs and wishes.

At Hospicare, we really try to meet people ‘where they are’ and adjust to their needs accordingly as time goes on. To help make this possible, collaboration with other members of the Hospicare team is essential. Our team is made up of social workers, bereavement specialists, our medical director, spiritual care, volunteers and so many others that help keep our patients safe and comfortable.

Death is commonly seen as a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. I try to make death a beautiful transition for patients and their families by doing anything I can to support them physically and emotionally during this time. I feel very blessed that patients allow me to accompany them on this journey.”