When the body is perishing, Becca James nurses the soul.
James was a young graphic artist doing some soul-searching of her own. At 24, she was considering a career change and was torn between teaching and nursing. “I realized there is so much teaching incorporated in nursing,” she said. “Nursing spoke to me the most. I was drawn to it.”
James, now director of clinical services at Hope Hospice, began her career as a case manager and was recently promoted to the director of clinical services. She is able to put both her passion for teaching and nursing to use in this position.
Hospice care nurses guide a patient through the end phase of life. They provide physical, emotional and psychosocial care for terminally ill patients. Hope Hospice also offers families support by providing services such as social work, spiritual guidance and continued bereavement support to guide them through their loss.
“Hospice is completely different than any other type of nursing,” James said. “Typically, nurses focus on curative treatments, and in hospice that is not the goal. The goal for myself and my team is to provide comfort.”
Comforting hospice patients can be as simple as talking, hand-holding, giving hugs and crying with them, James said. “They need guidance but they also need reassurance. It’s important to make sure my patients feel comfortable with the unknown.”
Another key component in hospice is ensuring that patients have a dignified death and that all of their wishes are respected. In return, James and her team of nurses often form close bonds with patients and families along the way. “Our patients and their families tend to grab ahold of our hearts,” she said.
Although her management position doesn’t involve direct care, James is a team player, willing to fill in wherever she is needed – any hour of the day, no matter the task. Colleague Jamie Conrey explains, “She is always there for the team and helps out whenever a fellow nurse needs it. She will go out and do home health aide visits as well as late night admissions. Even as she was promoted, she continues to do the same selfless acts as before.”
Nurse James’ encounters with life and death on a daily basis have given her a new perspective on her own life. She is frequently reminded that life is precious and the future is not promised.
“My job has made me think more about my own mortality. I take better care of myself and I also enjoy every moment. You never know when it could be your last day.”