I have been asked numerous times what I am going to school for. My degree, once I’m done, will be a Bachelor of Applied Science in Human Services. Everyone assumes I will be going into the field of social services working alongside Child Protection Services. This is most definitely not the case. Nothing against CPS or the people who choose to work in that field as it’s an amazing organization when people don’t abuse the system or make false cases… but it’s just not for me. When I explain that I actually plan to work in the hospice field I’m always hit with the “But that’s such a sad job! Why would you do that to yourself?”
Well, let me tell you how I reached this decision.
First of all, yes hospice is a very sad field to work in. After all, hospice is end of life care. Growing up I wanted to work with kids… how wasn’t an issue. I just knew I wanted to work with kids. When I decided to go back for my associates in Human Services I did so in hopes to work with children who’d fell victim to abuse. I reached the end of my program and was required to complete an internship before I could graduate. I applied to an agency that handled those types of cases but after not hearing back from them I had to make a decision… wait for them and possibly have to drop the class or apply to other agencies and do an internship with whoever gets back to me. I chose the latter.
The very next class we had a guest speaker – a chaplain for a local hospice agency. She mentioned them needing help with volunteers and I told myself “I need the credit to graduate. It’s only 100 hours. Whatever.” I applied for an internship, interviewed, got the internship, and accepted the offer. This was definitely not what I wanted to do but I knew I needed to pass this class in order to graduate so I went with it.
Here I am on day one of my internship and I am shadowing the social worker. I shadowed all of the disciplines over the course of my internship but was mostly with the social worker. I had no idea what to expect or what we would be doing because I had never done any research on the type of work that the hospice field handles. My first day on and we are meeting with a new family to check their qualifications for hospice care.
On the way to this families home the social worker explained to me the situation and that given what she was told about their loved one they would be qualified for hospice care. She stated that this would be their initial sit down with the family to go over what their needs were and what disciplines they wanted to visit with the family during their time with hospice care. The only discipline you MUST allow to see you is the nurse but the others (CNA, HHA, Social Worker, Chaplain) are all optional.
I was nervous and scared. I am a very emotional person and do not do well in sad situations… so I have no idea why I thought interning at a hospice agency was a good idea… my GRADE and ability to GRADUATE depended on this and my review at the end.
I survived the first day… and kept on surviving throughout the whole 16-week internship. It went from “I need to do well to graduate” to “I need to do well because these families need all the support they can get.” When my need switched over I knew something had changed within me.
Halfway through my internship another new potential patient was added to our days meetings. It was during the meeting with this family that this switch happened. The plan was to meet with the family and the nurse that would be seeing and caring for their loved one. Generally, the admissions meeting is the longest meeting that you will have with the family because during this time you are getting to know the family, their needs, their wants, and their expectations. Both the nurse and the social worker have documents that are to be filled out regarding the patient’s life, family, funeral plans, their diagnosis, and other important information that will allow you to understand the patient and their diagnosis and reason for needing hospice care. The information you gain in this meeting allows you to be fully supportive and understanding of their needs, religious needs (and practices), and anything else that they may request or not want included in the care.
Anyway, back to the switch. While sitting in this family’s kitchen listening to their stories and their needs something hit me. Suddenly, I had the urge to work with these families – to be their support, to listen when they need someone to listen to them, to have someone to talk to when they don’t have family around. I cannot put words together to describe this feeling, just know that it was amazing. It sent me a very clear and vivid message. While we were sitting there listening to this gentleman explain his feelings concerning his diagnosis and the worry that he wouldn’t live to see his only child get married I wanted so bad to cry. I, on any other day, would have fucking lost it. I mean… I cry watching Hallmark movies… -eye roll- I fought so hard and I won. Not a single tear was shed. It was very emotional and very intense. In that moment I was able to provide this family with active listening, verbal support, and maintain my professionalism. Unfortunately, he did not make it to his son’s wedding.
I knew then that this is what I was called to do.
Throughout the course of my internship I met with amazing families, shared laughs, offered support, sat there intently listening to their fears and stories. I sat with numerous patients during their last moments, having witnessed their very quick decline first hand. It was an amazing piece of my life story and one that I will forever be thankful that I was given the chance to do. During my internship I decided that I wanted to switch up my life plans and it was scary. I have always wanted to work with child abuse victims but after completing my internship that was no longer the case. I was back at square one. I had to do more research about the field and figure out my school plans.
I completed my internship and graduated with my associates degree. After I was done with my internship I decided to stay on with the hospice agency as a volunteer and was given a patient to see weekly. I used the time with my patient while volunteering to make sure that I really wanted to do this long-term. I took my volunteer work very seriously, like I will my career once I am in the field, and whole heartedly enjoyed my time with her. Unfortunately, when I got pregnant I had to end my volunteering with the agency but the time that I did have with the agency proved to me that this is what I am meant to do. During this time, I was also able to help my own family through a hospice experience when my husband’s grandad was put on hospice. Even having gone through helping my own family with this I was able to maintain my emotions and handle it professionally. Aside from being able to help, seeing and hearing the appreciation from my in-laws felt amazing. I was reassured, yet again, that this is where I am meant to be.
So, no, it won’t be easy and there will be days where it won’t be fun. Just like most other jobs. However, this is the job that has chosen me. I wish I knew a better way to describe the feeling that overcame me the day I met with that family. This field has its overwhelming days and I am sure I will have bad days, especially when a patient passes, but throughout this whole experience I have never once had a negative thought or waited impatiently for time to pass so I could go home. I cannot wait to finish my schooling and get out there in the field to gain even more experience, meet even more loving families, and share lasting memories.
Until next time…