In her 8th year as an RN, Julie Doss of Hospice of North Alabama reflects on her journey towards becoming a nurse and all those who have influenced her along the way. In honor of National Nurses Week, we want to share Julie’s passion for hospice nursing and how her career choice has impacted her life.
Julie always knew she wanted to be a nurse but was cautious because she thought her stomach couldn’t handle it, so she became a teacher instead. Even as a child, her mother told stories of her pretending to stick her dolls with sewing needles, as if she was administering an IV, and taking care of them like real patients.
When her career of teaching pre-k abruptly came to an end, Julie saw the opportunity to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. She arrived at this decision shortly after losing her grandfather. He suddenly became sick, and exploratory surgery revealed cancer that had metastasized throughout his whole body. The doctors announced he had seven days to live, and he was palliated in the hospital. During her grandfather’s seven days in hospice, Julie spent time keeping him calm and settled until he passed.
Several weeks after his passing, Julie’s other grandfather was admitted into hospice care as well. For nearly a year, Julie helped take care of him during his time with hospice. With those experiences in mind, Julie thought, “If I could do those things for the people I loved most – some of those most private caregiving duties – I could do it for anyone.” As a result, she enrolled in a CNA program and worked nights at a nursing home for almost a year, while her husband worked hard to help put her through school.
Her first job out of nursing school was working nights at a hospital in the neuro/ortho unit. While she loved this position, she couldn’t help but think of how highly her mother-in-law spoke of the hospice organization she worked for. With that in mind, along with her personal experiences, Julie knew that hospice nursing was her true calling.
When a fellow church member reached out to Julie about working for Hospice of North Alabama, she jumped at the chance.
“I thought I was going to be fired after my first day on the job. Two of my five patients passed away that day. Since then, I have grown and gotten to do many different things in my time with Hospice of North Alabama/Abode Healthcare. This is one-hundred percent because of the people who have supported me along the way, and my coworkers who have taught me so much and mentored me.”
How Hospice Nursing Has Impacted Julie
Not long after Julie became a hospice nurse, she had a patient with lung cancer who was declining rapidly. He was a minister with a very close-knit family. It was clear he was the rock of the family; the center of everything they did. Because of this, the family was taking the situation very hard.
After being with the patient for nearly a month, February rolled around, and with it came a prediction of ice and snow. As the weather became increasingly worse, Julie received an upsetting call from the patient’s daughter, saying he was declining rapidly. After finding a safe means of transportation, Julie made her way to the family.
When she arrived, she could sense the family was truly struggling. In the week before, Julie had talked with the family about how important it is for someone who is dying to have permission from their loved ones to let go. After getting the patient comfortable, the daughter came up to Julie and asked if it was time to do so. Julie then stood in the corner of the room and watched the family, one by one, sit on the man’s bedside and pour out their hearts by telling him how their lives were forever changed because of him.
When it came time for his wife to say her goodbyes, she could hardly do it. She looked at Julie and she responded, “If all you need to do is lay with him, that is okay.” Then, the wife laid next to her husband, wrapped her arms around him, and whispered her love to him and how thankful she was for the family they created together. As she told him it was okay to go, he took one breath and was gone.
“I will never forget experiencing this love of a family and what that means to people. I have cared for a lot of people and attended many deaths, but never have I heard regrets about money, work, etc.; all they talk about are people they love. This is such a great reminder of how you should live your life and what is truly important. There is not another job is this world that I would rather do than what I am doing right now – with the people I work with and the company I work for.”
Julie & Hospice of North Alabama – Personal Testimony
“We are incredibly blessed, here at Hospice of North Alabama, with a fantastic group of people whose mission in life is to make sure we take care of the patients who allow us into their homes, lives and hearts for whatever time they may have left. Hospice is not about dying, it is about living well for whatever time you have left. It is our job and privilege to help contribute to that.”
“Through hospice nursing, Hospice of North Alabama and my coworkers, I have had some of the best experiences of my life. I have learned more about life, how to live and what’s important through this job that any other thing I could possibly do.”
“When you work with people who are at the end of their life, and their families who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, you just learn so much about what is truly important. I have learned so much about forgiveness and the importance of the relationships in my life.”
“One of the things that sets this organization apart is the staff here. I am just beyond amazed at how they love their patients, their jobs, and how they take care of one another. We have been able to do and see many wonderful things for patients that would not have had that opportunity without the help of the staff here.”