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The Connecticut Hospice, Inc. of Branford, as well as its five state wide offices, celebrated their 2011 Nurses Day Wednesday, May 25. Perpetually demonstrating a sense of caring, integrity and kindness, Connecticut Hospice Nurses are number one as they forevermore display why love matters.
Dr. Geraldine F. Marrocco EdD., APRN, CNS, ANP-C and the Director of Hospice and Assistant Director of Home Care, Soozi Flannigan APRN, delivered speeches emphasizing the dedication and value of Hospice Nurses all while congratulating them for the excellence in care they provide to terminally ill patients.
Please see below for a copy of these two moving speeches.
Nurses' Day, Wed. May 25
Good afternoon, thank you for inviting me to speak today at this celebration of appreciation for all you do individually and collectively through your gifted profession. Every year we have celebrations in May to honor our fellow nurses and it always seems to fly by. Is it a Day, is it a week or is it a month? Should it not be every day? For patients who are suffering and look to the nurse, it is their moment in time to feel the strength of your distinguished profession as you remain present with them.
Last October, the Institute of Medicine, in Washington, DC published a very important document that sent out a clear message to health care in the US. The message (comprised of a mere 700 pages) reaffirmed what has been known to us for years. That nurses are an integral part of health care and we can no longer afford to ignore their knowledge base, their daily work and the breath of their education. With the Affordable Health Care Act, changes will need to be made to allow nurses to practice to their level of education and tear down the walls and barriers to health care access for Americans and give recognition to each nurse for their education, practice and skills.
News ways of teaching will promote a more efficient health care force, equipped to meet the challenges of modern medicine and provide more to this aging population, who will be strapped to make ends meet, keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. One important foundation that joined in to speak about the future of health care was the Josiah Macy group, who studied professions and narrowed their educational vision down to 3 domains. They promote that all professions need to be taught together, stop compartmentalizing education and focus on three types of education. First, Habits of the mind (knowledge), second, habits of practice, (skills) and third, habits of the heart.
Which do you think is the hardest to teach and to learn? You guessed it: habits of the heart. Everyone who pursues a degree in medicine, or social work or any field in health care would be best served to spend a day with a nurse. Especially a Hospice Nurse, for the gift of “habits of the heart” are found in the core of nursing care that you give.
You are all here today and I hope you are well aware that you all have the three domains; the greatest is the gift of your heart.
As I reflect on the meaning of nursing, I cannot help but to think about how it all happened for me.
I did not come from a family of nurses, maybe some of you did. But when I was about 7 yrs old, I told my mother, who was a beautician, that I wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to help people. There was no official role model for me but the “habits of the heart” were lived out daily by my mother. She clearly “had it” and my soul was bursting for me to stay on target and find the profession that best suited my needs to live out “habits of the heart”. I had this need to be with people who needed help. As a young teenager, I can remember being so proud to wear a candy striper uniform at St. Vincent’s hospital, bringing ice water around the different units, then graduating to a Louisette, when, at last I could make a bed, help give a bed bath and get closer to people who were suffering. I volunteered as a Carmelite at St. Joseph’s Manor, allowed to help feed the elderly… all the time not earning a dime, but knowing how much richer my life was by being closer to people in need.
This was the beginning of my career. It was my vocation. Actually, for a period of time I thought I was supposed to enter the convent, since my devotion to humanity felt so powerful; but as a child of the 60’s, I soon discovered the fun life and loved having boyfriends……
I could never dismiss the power of having a boyfriend over my love of helping those in need and it was nursing that was my true love. So here I am today, married this year for 41 years to the same man, my soul mate, with three challenging but beautiful children and a history of thousand of patients who allowed me into their life during their time of suffering and need.
I want to speak to you as a group of caregivers and commend you for all that you do every day because I really know the core of your souls. I want to commend you and recognize you for your worth both for your individual and communal sense of giving back your gifts to humanity.
You know your devotion, you know the power you have, you know that it’s what life is all about. We cannot avoid as humans our own inevitable future. It is part of the human condition. And all of you know and see this every day. You provide the “presence” during the twilight of life. Suffering is truly a mystery and is inevitable for all of us. It is a common denominator. The “cure” is often not possible, but healing is possible. You make that possible for each patient who comes through your door. Your work supports and allows you to be present for those souls every day through your engagement and tireless commitment to their well-being.
Healing is holistic. The body may be frail and breaking down, but the spirit is there. The founder of the Hospice in the United Kingdom emphasized the importance of spiritual care at the end of life. Dame Cicely Saunders, your founder, introduced the idea that suffering is not only caused by physical symptoms, but also results from psychological, social, and spiritual factors (Saunders, 1964). Her understanding of “total pain” implied that a person's entire being can be affected by a life-threatening illness, thus suggesting that to treat pain effectively one must treat the whole person (Saunders, 1988).
For Saunders suffering, or “total pain”, is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes a spiritual aspect. In her definition of “spiritual pain”, Saunders brings it one step forward by referring to such pain as resulting from a “lack of meaning” (Saunders, 1988).
The other day, my 98 year old father, who is alert as can be, asked me to define what is the meaning of existentialism. In my most basic terms, I said: “I exist; therefore I am.” Or known around the globe as: Cogito ergo sum.
We had a lengthy discussion of philosophy, noted philosophers and the tenets of their discourse. What a question to ask when you are 98? But it is a reflective time for him. For those patients who you see every day, they have physical symptoms which can be a challenge to control, but they also are suffering from “existential concern”. Questioning the meaning of their life, knowing that one exists, therefore they are… are still so poorly understood dimensions of suffering. Many still look at spirituality as religious, or a connection to a higher being, but for many it is not that at all, it is finding a “meaning” of the life led. And coming to closure and feeling at rest, finding a balance, and absence of complexity and at peace, is truly healing.
The work of healing always includes the dimension of the spirit. So what is healing? It is related to curing, but many times not curing at all. Healing has a vast root system. Once again it is peace, balance and the absence of complexity. Many experts believe that in healing there is an existential dimension, for example, includes issues related to identity, personal integrity, or an unfulfilled past, as well as issues relating to future concerns such as meaninglessness, hopelessness, death, futility, and religious worries. Another philosopher, Kearney (2000) also defined suffering as “the experience that results from damage to the whole person” (p.5). For Kearny, however, suffering occurs deep within an individual's psyche. Thus, healing cannot be willed or forced; rather, it happens naturally in a secure and safe environment created by empathic, compassionate, and caring individuals. You. This presence allows the distressed person the freedom to look inward within the self, to move through pain and suffering towards a place of healing. This healing gives the patient an internal sense of control.
Not all patients, as you are well aware, will reach this conclusion in their life. Many will suffer from “existential distress” best described as the mental turmoil experienced by individuals who are facing impending death. This state of distress is often accompanied by feelings of remorse, powerlessness, futility, and by a sense that life is meaningless. Many consider existential themes such as death, meaning, grief, aloneness, freedom, and dignity as “key existential challenges” faced by terminally ill patients. It is further proposed that patients may become demoralized as they experience emotions associated with these themes. Treating existential distress or demoralization consists of facilitating a search for meaning and purpose in life, promoting relationships, and helping patients develop adaptive thoughts and attitudes (Clarke & Kissane, 2002).
So who is going to help facilitate these patients to heal? I am skeptical of self proclaimed healers and am more interested in people like you. You are modest and gifted and bring the healing presence in your daily work. You don’t walk around with a sign, market your selves as “healers’, you have no hidden agenda. You are simply you, gifted in the most incredible way. You are all nurses. And the core of your work is found in the “love ethic”. You manage to be there for those who are loved and also for those who might be considered “unlovable”. You are there, present with them. It doesn’t matter how many letters you have behind your name, what kind of house you live in, or your social network. For that patient who you are with, you, just you, are present with them. It is a reaffirmation of their existence. It is healing and gives each of them the permission to look at their life and find meaning to their existence.
So today, I salute you, congratulate you for all your work and rename your role from the word “nurses” to the words “lover of the soul”; for if you weren’t a lover of the soul, you could not do what you do everyday.
Nurses' Day, Wed. May 25
I have a little message for you all.
Tonight, for just one moment, I would like you to relax; you may close your eyes if you wish.
I would like you to imagine that you have been given a special assignment here on earth.
This assignment is most difficult and yet very, very rewarding.
You have been selected to care for specific patients and families with great needs, many of whom are dying.
Now imagine that you have been doing this work and at times questioning yourself and your life’s purpose and imagine that you receive a very, very profound message and the message is this:
You are in the right place at the right time.
You have been given your assignments and you have exceeded all expectations. You are a blessing and so appreciated for all that you have done and continue to do. And the universe wants to thank you personally for being so caring, so giving, for challenging yourself, for becoming an expert, for listening and being there and for going the extra mile to help another. Thank you for being a Connecticut Hospice home health aide, support staff or nurse.
Please continue with your work and know you are extraordinary and very, very valued.
Okay you can come back now! Let’s give ourselves a round of applause!!! Thank you for who you are and all that you do.