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Care Dimensions RN Case Manager Rick Healy shares a pleasant moment with one of his hospice patients.
Care Dimensions RN Case Manager Rick Healy shares a pleasant moment with one of his hospice patients.

How I Went from Caregiver to Hospice Nurse

Posted on May 8, 2023 by Rick Healy, BSN, RN, CHPN

When my mom was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 2002, she chose hospice, and taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. As your time becomes limited, it also becomes extremely valuable. Enjoy as many good days as you can.

I was my mom’s caregiver while she was on hospice for three and a half months. Her philosophy was all about the quality, not the quantity of time she had left. She didn’t want to be poked and prodded in a loud and sterile hospital. She wanted to be at home spending quality time with her family and friends.

Ten years after Mom died, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and saw a flyer for hospice volunteers with the health system in my community. I had seen how hospice brought my mom comfort and peace and I wanted to help others with their end-of-life journeys. As soon as I started volunteering, I knew I was where I belonged and wanted a bigger role.

Career change to hospice nurse

After 15 years in corporate finance, I decided to change careers. I discovered that I could earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing in just 16 months at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences under a program for people who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field. I attended with the specific goal of becoming a hospice nurse and graduated in May 2018.

I had stayed in touch with a nurse I met while volunteering for hospice. She had left that company to work for Care Dimensions and encouraged me to apply for Care Dimensions’ Hospice Nurse Residency Program. I was accepted and from September 2018 to March 2019, I was paid to learn to become a hospice nurse case manager. 

The hospice nurse residency made me the nurse I am. I had two great preceptors. In addition, in my time with Care Dimensions I’ve had two fantastic managers, both of whom believe their first job is to teach. I knew I could always ask for help. I felt comfortable from very beginning of my residency because I was supported. Now, I support some of the newer hospice nurses. Nobody has all the answers. Every day something a little different comes up, and I’m always learning from my colleagues.

Being a hospice nurse case manager demands good organizational skills. Making the best use of time is key to having more time to spend with the patients. I get to spend quality time with my patients. I get to know them and their families and be there for them when they need me. It’s satisfying to know that when they need help, I can provide it.

For example, one of my more memorable patients was a 34-year-old mother of four who was married to an Army major. I feel like I was meant to be this woman’s hospice nurse. The nurse who would have had this patient was off on the day of the first scheduled visit, and I filled in for her.  I quickly connected with the patient and her family. They were from a remote town in Wisconsin, and I had lived there. She had lived in Fairbanks, AK, at a time when I happened to be visiting. There were a lot of these coincidences. I took over as her nurse, and was privileged to be by her side when she died. These are the moments that make my job so special.

We all have our humanity; we wouldn’t be doing this work otherwise. Being a hospice nurse is what I’m meant to do.

Learn about careers with Care Dimensions.

About the author
Rick Healy, BSN, RN, CHPN, is a hospice nurse case manager with Care Dimensions.

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