Through this initiative at Hospice of the West, my hope is to share my passion and knowledge regarding these topics with others; to help remove the stigma surrounding the death and dying process in our society and to help others be more prepared for the inevitability of death.
Death and dying. These two words used to send a shudder down my spine. Now, they are the epicenter of my career and passion. Growing up, I was extremely sheltered from death. The majority of my elderly family lived out of state, and I had never witnessed a friend or loved one decline or die. My parents strived to keep my innocence intact as long as possible, and often glazed over any difficulties or details when someone we knew did die. Many of my friends were raised similarly. Death was an extremely taboo subject, and certainly not something to be discussed at the dinner table. I viewed death as terrifying and something that was so far out of my control that I did not want to try to comprehend it.
It wasn’t until I entered the health care field, that I realized what a disservice it is to our society—to those you hold near and dear to your hearts—to shy away from the topic of death. My first true experience with death was as a new grad RN on a busy oncology/tele floor. My patient had metastatic lung cancer and was rapidly declining. Our palliative care team had worked tirelessly to try to discuss the patient’s wishes regarding life sustaining treatments in the face of his decline. He was extremely resistant and shut down each attempt. He viewed discussing end of life as “giving up”. I spent the majority of my shift in his room while he continued to decline. I could see the fear in his eyes, and I had absolutely no idea how to discuss his final wishes and impending death with him. His final moments on this earth were chaotic and both he and his family were extremely ill prepared for his departure. I will never forget the only question he asked me that day before he passed, “What do I do?” All I could do was stare blankly at him as I realized I couldn’t make those decisions for him and I had no idea how to discuss his options with him.
It was in that tiny, cluttered and chaotic hospital room that I realized how important it was to reflect upon one’s wishes for end of life care. I stayed late that evening to complete my advance directive and made it my mission to find out my loved one’s wishes. That difficult and humbling experience sparked a passion inside me to better educate myself regarding the meaning of palliative care, hospice, and end of life in general so that I could help others navigate the process. Through this initiative at Hospice of the West, my hope is to share my passion and knowledge regarding these topics with others; to help remove the stigma surrounding the death and dying process in our society and to help others be more prepared for the inevitability of death.
Lauren graduated from Arizona State University’s Barrett, The Honors College with a Bachelor of Arts in Global Health and furthered her education at Grand Canyon University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science of Nursing. She previously worked as a Registered Nurse in both oncology and labor and delivery at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. She currently works as a Staff Development Coordinator with Hospice of the West. She is an advocate for the voice and rights of patients and their families. Her passion lies in providing education regarding caring for individuals with life limiting and terminally ill conditions and preparing for end of life.