story and photo by James Coburn, staff writer
When Ashley Lewis was in high school, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Chemotherapy offered him a slight chance of survival.
“The nursing staff took wonderful care of him, and he ended up coming into remission,” said Lewis, RN, case manager at Valir Hospice. “It wouldn’t have been without the nursing staff. So, that is what led me to being a nurse, just that compassionate care of them working and doing whatever they could to save my dad.”
Healthcare runs in her family. Her dad was a paramedic, and her sister is a nurse practitioner in Ardmore.
Lewis is a graduate of Murray State College, located in Tishomingo. Most of her career has been in hospice during her seven years as a nurse. She also worked in cardiology, skilled nursing and did COVID relief as a travel nurse. March marks her one-year anniversary at Valir Hospice.
Her first impression of Valir Hospice came when she was working at another hospice company. Lewis observed within a facility that the nurses and CNAs there were polite and compassionate.
“They seemed to have a really good rapport built up and were very friendly,” Lewis said. “They would even say hi to me when I walked by even though I was with another company at the time. I’d always heard good things about Valir. And so, I decided to make the change and see if I could be part of this wonderful company.”
Hospice nurses bring comfort to patients and family members in either the patient’s home or a facility. Lewis said Valir Hospice provides that extra “icing on top of care.” Hospice nurses ensure their terminally ill patient is receiving the best quality of care.
“We build a rapport with them. It kind of feels like a second home, a second family,” Lewis continued. “We give them that peace of mind that they’re going to be taken well care of, and their symptoms are going to be managed to the best of our abilities towards the end of life.”
She takes the patient’s hand upon meeting them, introduces herself and first asks them how they are feeling. Lewis will ask, “Can I do anything for you?” And she will manage any immediate discomfort they may have before she explains the normal flow of hospice care. Lewis will hold her patient’s hand again, telling them she wants to make sure they are comfortable before she leaves.
“I make sure everything is there for them,” Lewis explained. “And if there is anything else needed, I will get it right after the visit and make sure it is handled the same day.”
She always gives them a hug whenever possible and tells them she will see them again during her next visit.
“If you need me, call me,” she says. “I am always here for you.”
Hospice nurses need to be kindhearted and not robotic like patients sometimes experience in other places, Lewis said, so that when a decline arises the patient is educated with a sense of expectations. This makes the end-of-life process flow easier for them, she said. They are not caught blind sighted in a panic, she added.
“They just want you to be yourself like you are at home. Talk to them like you would talk to a family member, your friend,” Lewis continued. “Get down to their level where they can understand. I always let them know if I ever do nursing talk — stop me. It will not hurt my feelings.”
Memories of being with her patients motivate her journey as a hospice nurse. Being a hospice nurse can be tiring and overwhelming at times, she said. But Lewis keeps pushing forward to alleviate any discomfort her patients have.
Once she witnessed the personal side of nursing during her father’s illness, Lewis knew she could do it and began pushing herself a little harder in life.
She also has a good support system at home.
“I have a wonderful, better half as I call him. His name is Scott,” Lewis said. “And then his daughter Wyle— they’re just my daily motivation to keep me doing what I’m doing. And if it wasn’t for them and the support system here at Valir Hospice, I don’t know where I would be.”
The staff at Valir Hospice has become a second family for Lewis in providing good quality care, she said.
“Communication is key and just being there for each other,” she said. “We might not like the same things outside of hospice, but right here you’re doing a job, you’re caring for others and that’s a solid point.”
For more information about Valir Hospice visit: