May 6-12 marks National Nurses Recognition Week when Delaware Hospice and healthcare organizations around the nation honor the men and women who have dedicated their careers to caring for others in the field of nursing.
Nurses have always played an integral role in hospice. When Delaware Hospice was still a “wish” in the minds of those who wanted better end-of-life care in Delaware, Amy Hecht, RN, and former Chair of the University of Delaware’s Nursing Department, took a year’s sabbatical to write Delaware Hospice’s “Certificate of Need,” on which it was founded.
Gretchen Jones, as a University of Delaware nursing student, traveled in the early 1970’s to visit one of the very first hospice facilities in the U.K. and was astounded with the peace and dignity that terminally ill patients found there. She eventually became Delaware Hospice’s first Patient Care Coordinator.
Susan Lloyd, RN, MSN, who marks 25 years as President and CEO of Delaware Hospice next year, has skillfully guided the organization through its care of 36,000 patients and families and has become a recognized leader in hospice care.
Almost 30 years since its establishment, Delaware Hospice’s nursing staff numbers 140. Ann Marie Ackerman, RN, CHPN, Chief Clinical Officer, said, “Our nurses certainly deserve recognition and praise. Every day, they face the challenges of providing choice, care, and comfort to our patients, in their homes or facilities, and in our Center in Milford. To do this, they use their knowledge and experience to collaborate with team members and physicians. They are tireless advocates for our patients and families through critical times and I am proud to have the opportunity to work with them.”
Charlotte Passwaters, RN, has been with Delaware Hospice for nine years. A Dover native, Charlotte knew from a young age that she wanted to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps and become a nurse to take care of people.
For 23 years, Charlotte gained experience in various facilities and specialties, including Nanticoke Hospital’s pediatric unit and operating room; Stokely Center for mentally and physically challenged; and Lofland Park’s sub-acute rehabilitation center, long-term care and Alzheimer ‘s unit.
When a friend told her about an opening at Delaware Hospice, she decided to try hospice nursing, and loved it. “After serving 23 years as a nurse, I was ready for a change. Hospice was a way to use my skills and experience in a way that is more comfortable and fulfilling. You have more time to spend meeting your patient’s needs, instead of running for bells and buzzers or handling one crisis after another.
Since joining the organization, Charlotte has served as a nurse as well as a Team Leader. She said, “A nurse’s role is to do a physical assessment of the patient to make sure their needs are being met, whether for medicine, emotional support, or education, and then collaborate with the rest of the multi-disciplinary team to provide the best care.
“Hospice is so refreshing when you’re an experienced nurse, because you’ve seen end-of-life situations in less than perfect situations. You see people in semi-private rooms, where only a few family members can visit at a time. Others line up in the halls—it’s just not the way you’d like to see it done.”
“It’s awesome to help enable families to take care of patients in their homes. My favorite part is to see how family members grow in their roles as caregivers. When the patient has been admitted, they think they can’t do it, but with guidance and education, they become efficient at each stage.”
As with other individuals who work or volunteer for a hospice, Charlotte is often asked “How can you do what you do?” Her answer is: “For the reward of seeing families grow and come together for their loved ones.”