by James Coburn, Staff Writer
D’lena Swanner’s Christian faith drives her career as a hospice nurse. It’s been important for her to get to know each patient and understand their needs, she said.
“My belief to provide overall compassionate care toward those who are transitioning towards heaven has really kept me here,” said Swanner, RN, INTEGRIS Hospice House, located in Oklahoma City. “So, I keep that as my primary goal of giving peace and comfort that I know the Lord provides us.”
Swanner became a registered nurse nearly 13 years ago. This came after she cared of her great aunt before her passing. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
Swanner earned her Associate of Applied Science in Nursing degree at Rose State College, located in Midwest City. For most of her career, she has served in hospice care. Swanner is currently working to attain her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through an online program offered by Capella University. She came to the INTEGRIS Hospice House in 2020.
Hospice care is end of life care. INTEGRIS Hospice House has a low light environment to reduce too much stimulation. It provides peace and comfort by way of managing symptoms of pain, anxiety, agitation, nausea and vomiting through palliative care, Swanner explained.
“Our overall goal is to maintain the comfort of our patients,” Swanner said.
The INTEGRIS Hospice service area covers portions of nine counties and an approximate 50-mile radius around the Oklahoma City metro.
She commends the compassionate INTEGRIS staff of hard workers who love what they do. They not only care for the patients but also the families. INTEGRIS Hospice House offers counseling for families.
The hospice provides an interdisciplinary team that includes the nursing staff, physicians, social worker and chaplain. Each member helps patients live their remaining days at their personal best. Families and patients have their questions answered about the journey ahead of them.
It’s not uncommon for the pastoral care team to attend the funerals. And chaplains may be called upon to officiate the funerals. They are the ones that are really on the front line of leading that spiritual journey.
INTEGRIS Hospice follows families for a year or more afterwards if needed. She believes the kindness shown by families to the hospice staff helps their own sorrow.
“We are showered with love and appreciation. We receive many thank you cards. We’ve had families return after three years later and still provide for the staff and other visitors and families here,” she said.
It has been personally enriching for Swanner to help patients understand their disease progression and accept it.
“I think the final part that is a resolution for me is that they are comfortable with letting go,” Swanner continued. “Letting go of what’s wrong with them, letting go of this world and transitioning on. I think that has probably been the best thing that I’ve witnessed. It’s so surreal when they are in there and can just easily and peacefully go.”
To witness a peaceful passing means that she and the hospice team has helped to navigate a peaceful journey of transitioning.
“As long as I’ve carried out all the interventions that I know either medically or spiritually — I’ve met my goal,” she said.
A hospice nurse empowers the patient, said Chelsey Deakins, business development specialist.
“My grandparents were on hospice for months. You don’t stop living when you’re on hospice.”
Swanner said being a hospice nurse strengthened her faith in forgiveness.
The reality of death has become easier to discuss and accept among her family and friends.
Outside of work, Swanner catches up on her sleep. She will go to the lake with her family and enjoy the peacefulness.
“Down time is turning everything off, being quiet. I can stare at water for days,” she said.
She married her high school sweetheart and has three adult children in their early 20s.
Hospice has taught her how to love people where they are in life and to understand grace.
She is less apt to worry.
A nurse needs to be patient, trustworthy and comfortable with dying in order to be a hospice nurse, Swanner said.
“I feel that if there is a fear, it’s going to hurt what they can provide for others in accepting the dying process. That’s really the key,” Swanner said.
“So, it’s not really a difficult subject to talk about, so I think it’s really a strength,” she said.
For more information visit https://integrisok.com – Hospice House in OKC