Volunteers with Heart are Heart of Hospice Program

Story by Angie Self

The heart of Arkansas Hospice Services is the dedicated staff of the program. The agency’s website where employment opportunities are listed states that “hospice employees are not hired, they are called.”

Three ladies involved with the program based in Russellville received special recognition this year and prove that quality care is a part of Arkansas Hospice.

Jennifer Scheible was named National Hospice Nurse of the Year for the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care during a conference held in Denver, Colo., earlier this year. Scheible serves as the education coordinator for Russellville, Hot Springs, Conway, Arkansas Hospice River Valley Home in Russellville and an in-patient hospice home in Hot Springs.

Many people have a hard time dealing with death. Hospice nurses are a special breed that can deal with death and provide the support that the patient and family needs. Scheible, who lives in Russellville, was a case management manager registered nurse with the program for four years before being promoted to education coordinator. Her experience helps her pass on to other nurses the knowledge she has learned to help them cope with their patients and find ways to ease their discomforts during their last days.

Hospice care allows nurses and staff members an opportunity to meet all kinds of people with the neatest life stories, Scheible recalls.

“We have the opportunity to learn so much about their lives and adventures at such an intimate time in their lives. It’s a privilege to be invited into their home to care for their loved one and be trusted with this at such an intimate time and let us experience that journey with them.”

The best place for most of the hospice patients is in their home or in a family member’s home. “Our job is to keep them there and make them comfortable,” Scheible said. “By teaching the nurses strategies and interventions, there are a lot of non-medicinal things we can do to help make this a successful experience. This includes education for the families so that they feel comfortable and competent to take care of their loved ones at home. Many people are very nervous when they first receive a diagnosis, and we try to calm those fears.”

It is these traits as a nurse and now a nurse instructor that led Rhonda Horton, program director, to nominate Scheible for this award. Horton said she has watched her grow both personally and professionally since joining the hospice team.

“Jennifer is very energetic and enthusiastic about hospice and her desire to help nurses grow in their knowledge of the profession,” Horton related. “She raises the bar higher each year and encourages her colleagues to do the same.”

Scheible manages to stay busy in her personal life as well by running marathons and encouraging other women in the River Valley to run by coaching in the Women Can Run clinic held this year in Russellville.

She recently returned from a mission trip to Haiti and serves in the Kansas Air National Guard.

One of the nurses that Scheible has the privilege of working with is Sherrie Guinn of Pottsville, a case manager registered nurse for Arkansas Hospice Services. The Arkansas State Board of Nursing honored Guinn this summer at a ceremony in Little Rock with the Nursing Compassion Award.

The award was created to provide a way for patients and families to recognize a nurse who has shown outstanding compassion and dedication to their patients. Guinn is just that kind of nurse, going above and beyond her job description, says Ginger Dixon, patient care coordinator for the agency.

“We have worked together for years,” Dixon said. “Any job she took in the hospital setting before joining hospice, she did well. However, her heart for nursing care took a leap forward when she began working with hospice patients and families. She is very caring and compassionate. I have seen her sit on the edge of a bed of a patient and hold them while they were upset until the tears stopped. She is a great advocate of the patient and will try anything and look at providing whatever the patient needs to make them comfortable.”

Guinn was nominated by Linda Nachtweh of Russellville for Guinn’s care of her husband, Robbert Nachtweh, a patient of Arkansas Hospice in 2011. Mrs. Nachtweh said that Guinn always brought a smile to her husband’s face and that she would not have been able to bear her husband’s death without the help of Guinn.

“I will always think of her as a guardian angel that God sent to help Robbert as well as me in his last days,” Nachtweh wrote. “Sherrie is not only a remarkable nurse and caregiver, but the most compassionate person I have had the privilege to know.”

Guinn has a kind way of being honest with the care givers and patients to explain what is happening, Dixon recalls. Arkansas Hospice has received numerous letters from patients’ families that tell how Guinn has been able to connect with them during a difficult journey.

Volunteers are a valuable part of the Arkansas Hospice program. One of those volunteers in the River Valley is Paula Coan of Morrilton who received the 2012 Hospice Heart Award from the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Arkansas.

Coan dedicates four days a week to working with hospice patients in two nursing homes in Morrilton and one in Perryville each week. The retired school teacher just wanted to lend a helping hand and started her volunteer work by going to the homes and playing the piano and singing to the patients.

“She has been amazing and a blessing to all our patients,” said Shelly Jones, volunteer coordinator for the Russellville office that serves Pope, Yell, Conway, Johnson, Logan and Perry counties

“Not all the residents could come to the dining hall to hear her sing. God opened some doors and put a traveling piano in her lap. She takes that piano down every hall, and the patients just love it.”

Jones says she can’t even describe what a thrill it is to the patients when Coan sings the familiar song, “Give Me That Old Time Religion.” Coan inserts each patient’s name into the song. “The patients just raise their hands and rejoice when it’s their name being sung,” Jones recalls.

Her volunteer work goes beyond just the normal visits to the nursing facilities. She helps with bingo, birthday parties, fashion shows and redecorating Brookridge Cove Rehabilitation and Care Center in Morrilton.

She went to the area schools to gather team jerseys to decorate the sports hallway and was able to find a donor to pay for purchasing pictures of Hollywood stars for another hallway.

“Paula knows the patients well enough that she can pick out what color prayer shawl to give the patients that area women donate to the hospice program,” Jones said.

Jones remembers a time when she witnessed Paula showing so much patience with a hospice nursing home resident. The patient was suffering and hollering out occasionally.

“Paula was not bothered in the least by the loud noise. She just got down real close with the patient and asked to pray with her. The patient agreed, and afterwards, Paula told her that she loved her and she would be back. And she did go back, many times. She has God’s heart, and it just shines.”  

 

 

 

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