Karen, RN, BSN

Hospice RN Case Manager

Hometown: Stamford, CT

Tell us a bit about yourself I love traveling and seeing new places. My favorite place to be is on a beach. It really helps in regaining balance while tuning into nature. I’m a cat mom to three sweet kitty cats that I adopted while volunteering at an animal shelter.

I am a hospice nurse and I primarily see patients in the southern territory, which ranges from Greenwich up to Wilton/Weston/Westport. I also cover facilities in Darien, Norwalk and Wilton.

When and why did you become a nurse? Eight years after I graduated Duquesne University with a degree in Sociology, I enrolled at Fairfield University and graduated from their accelerated BSN program. I feel that there are so many possibilities in this field and there’s always something to learn. It’s a rewarding career in so many ways.

Most of my career has been providing hospice care. I’ve been told by many that it’s a calling and that it takes a special person to be able to do it. I feel honored to be able to provide the care, compassion and commitment to patients and families during one of, if not the most difficult times in one’s life.

Is there any such thing as a ‘typical day’ for you? My schedule does seem to change on a daily basis, especially now with what’s happening. A typical day has even changed because of the current situation that we’re all living in, so adjustments and flexibility are key. I care for hospice patients, who each have their own issues. My duty to them and their families is to assist in their comfort and safety, while providing emotional support and reassurance.

As a hospice nurse, I have the added responsibility of holding the hands (and hearts) of my patients and their families as they go through a difficult chapter in their lives. They go through phases such as denial, fear, anger, sadness, regret, forgiveness, acceptance and letting go.

Has COVID-19 changed your role? With the addition of the COVID virus, it is especially important to protect our vulnerable populations of people. Some patients and families are reluctant to have staff visit, so we improvise using virtual visits and we remain in communication with them to deter the feelings of isolation.

Due to this pandemic, we have had an increase in referrals of patients needing hospice care. Sadly, patients cannot have visitors and it is difficult for them and especially their families. We’ve come up with ways to enable people to be closer in a time when distancing is the mandate. FaceTime and other types of communication are more the norm now. Loved ones standing outside a patient’s windows and talking through the glass is commonplace. 

More than ever, we are also compelled to support the staff at the facilities our patients reside in, as they experience an influx of loss. I’m always “checking in” with them and letting them know that we are here to help or just listen and console them, as they cry about their favorite resident that they just lost.

Behind the layers of PPE that we’ve all been accustomed to wearing, lies a human being who will continue to give and care for patients. While we may be covered from head to toe, the eyes, while protected, are still able to convey what words might not. This is so important, as I believe the eyes are the window to the soul.

I’m very proud to be part of the hospice team and of RVNAhealth. Our team and the agency have pulled together like no other. I think we are all very thankful to have each other, but especially now. When things go back to normal, I hope people will remember the little things that have been shown to be essential life preservers and not continue to dwell on the restrictions that were placed on them. I hope this time of pause in an otherwise fast-paced world will bring an awareness to what’s really important.