CAREERS IN NURSING
HELPING HANDS: GOOD SHEPHERD HOSPICE COMFORTS FAMILIES
by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer
A love for hospice patients and their families is why Shara Batton, RN, is an nurse at Good Shepherd Hospice in Oklahoma City.
“The families are as much of my family as my patients are. In its own way it’s rewarding to know that you played a part in helping the patient be at peace.”
She helps dying patients during a very vulnerable time in life to transition through the final cycle of life.
“It is hard. It’s very hard to lose a loved one,” Batton said.
Batton is a 2010 graduate of Platt College in Oklahoma City and was an LPN for 10 years prior to becoming a registered nurse. Platt made it convenient for her to work full time and go to school full time, she said.
At first she entered the arena of medical surgical nursing and critical care in a long-term acute care hospital in Oklahoma City. She also worked at the ICU in Veteran’s Hospital for a couple of years. She realized hospice was her calling and came to Good Sheperd in February of this year.
She admires the families’ strength, spirit and resilience. The patients, themselves are so strong, she said.
“Therefore their families are because they see how strong their loved one is,” Batton continued. “And it’s hard when that strength starts to pass on. And you see it kind of transfer from the patient to their family. It helps them. Everybody grieves in their own way. But the strength from the patients, you definitely see the family pick up more.”
When people are grieving it’s best to let them be themselves. You let them grieve in their own individual way without telling them it’s time to move on, she said. Nobody really knows what a person meant to someone’s life.
“You can let them know you are there whether they appear to be thankful for that or not,” Batton said. “In the end they know and they have that shoulder.”
She gets to know patients during different times of their journey in life. For some, the have a prognosis to live another six months or so. For others the time is quickly approaching. And there are many fears about the meaning of hospice care when families know or do not understand the meaning of hospice.
“They approach us as a caregiver. There are patients that don’t want to hear ‘hospice’. There are family members that don’t want you to say the word hospice. I always say, I’m Shara with Good Shepherd because you don’t know how they’ll react. And you just treat them like anybody else whether they know they’re on hospice or not. You’re always going to treat them the same.”
In order to be on hospice a patient must have a terminal diagnosis. On paper the patient has six months or less to live. But Batton tells her families that does not mean there is six months or less of life remaining. People who have entered hospice care have at times survived for one or two years. They get better for a while and return.
“We’re always here when they need us again,” Batton said.
Throughout their palliative care, hospice patients find a kind and loving staff at Good Shepherd. Nursing presents a diversity of fields and personalities to meet.
“For me I always wanted to find that place that felt like home,” Batton said. “And this is home. Some of the nurses have been here for a while. I still consider myself new, and it’s home.”
Each hospice patient has their own social worker, chaplain, nursing staff individuals and volunteers. They are cared for by multiple people from the time an application is first made. Every aspect of holistic care is offered.
“Everyone is there for everyone,” she said.
Holidays can be difficult for hospice families and the survivors of departed loved ones. Good Shepherd recently offered its Remembrance Celebration. Families that have lost a loved one can come to these events.
“There was a pastor who spoke and he sculpted while he was speaking,” Batton continued. “He sculpted a heart and both sides had the crack in it from being broken. One side had a couple of patches representing other loss. And then the other side had a Band-Aid. It kind of represented hospice.”
Even after a family member loses someone, they are offered bereavement care by Good Shepherd. The hospice continues to reach out to the families in a loving way.