Care Dimensions: My First Year as a Hospice Nurse: Caring During a Pandemic

Voices of Care

My First Year as a Hospice Nurse: Caring During a Pandemic

Posted on April 12, 2021 by Lauren Mercurio, RN

Lauren Mercurio, RN Case Manager

If you told me when I was getting into the medical profession that I would fall in love with geriatric nursing, I probably would have laughed at you. From the time I started nursing school, I was convinced I would be a labor and delivery nurse. But to my surprise, when I began my first job at a small skilled nursing facility, I fell in love with the role.

When you work in a setting like I was in, end-of-life care comes with the territory. I met so many hospice nurses who always showed great compassion and monumental respect for the patients they cared for. And then a light went off in my head: “Hmm, maybe this is the right move for me.” Boy was it ever. It’s just the timing of my decision that proved the biggest challenge.

I started my orientation at Care Dimensions on March 2, 2020, just at the start of a global pandemic. During my brief in-person orientation, I met some of my new colleagues. The instant collaboration and general ease of collegiality made me feel comfortable from day one.

The orientation switched over to virtual Zoom sessions. I felt like a ‘Zoombie’ at times, but it did feel like we were all in it together. The clinical education department was wonderful and strived to make sure that we got the best orientation we could. The company was truly great during this whole experience. I was provided with enough PPE even in those early days!

I joined the amazing Emerald Team, which cares for patients in long-term care facilities and group homes. My clinical manager, Elaine Lendall, made sure I was included and up to date with everything that was going on. And my team members ensured I was able to learn as much as I could, even under challenging circumstances.

When I was able to go out into the field with my new colleagues (always fully masked and six feet apart), the interactions they made with patients really touched me. Quickly, these people became my rock and an amazing source of support.

Challenges came, for sure. Sometimes, during virtual visits, patients would have a hard time hearing or seeing us on the screen. But we made the best of it and still got the job done, providing the best care we could.

And because so many facilities did not allow visitors, we often became a bridge between the patient and their family. It was probably the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my nursing career. But it was also rewarding because we were able to help make those connections, and the families truly appreciated what our team was doing for them.

A year ago, there’s no way I thought I would be feeling somewhat comfortable in my role as a brand new RN case manager in the middle of a pandemic. But Care Dimensions and my co-workers have made this an easy transition in the middle of an uneasy time in the world and in health care.

As we begin to see the containment of the pandemic and a return to life before COVID-19, I look forward to learning even more about hospice nursing without the complications and precautions of COVID-19. I can’t want to see my colleagues in person and unmasked; and I want to see families be able to be at the patient’s bedside.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 95 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.