by Lisa Schwartz, RN
The first time I visited Hospicare was during a clinical rotation during my last semester of nursing school. As soon as I walked into the Residence, I knew how special it was and that one day I would work there.Three long years later, after going home to help my parents,then working on the fourth floor at Cayuga Medical Center, I am now a nurse in the Hospicare Residence.
I feel proud to say I work at Hospicare. I haven’t tired of hearing how moved people are by what we do, by the kind of care we give. I believe we are doing profound work in our little six-bed Residence that is really a chapel in disguise.
One night I held a patient’s hand as he died because his wife and daughters were not there. The gratitude they felt that he did not die alone, that someone sat by his side as he left this world, made me weep. I was the one who got the gift. Sitting with him was a privilege.
Sometimes when I am tired or my back hurts, I forget the bigger picture of what we do within the Residence walls. I forget that we have created a place where people come to live as they walk toward the end of their lives. I forget, in those moments, that every day I come to work and tend to my patients is an honor that is almost indescribable to anyone who doesn’t work here.
How can I explain what it means to wash a patient who has died, how the tenderness of it can bring tears to my eyes? How can I describe how holy and sacred this work is? We are there to care for those who are loved and adored and can no longer be at home. They are placed in our hands with trust and the hope that we will do what we do day after day after day. At the end of my shift, I tiredly walk to my car knowing we have all worked hard to make our patients comfortable and to provide a place for them to gently lay their heads,and that we will do it all again tomorrow.
Lisa Schwartz, RN, was a nurse in the Hospicare Residence when she wrote this essay about the rewards of her work with patients and their families.