GREENVILLE– Liz Coning has been a nurse at the EverHeart Hospice Care Center at Wayne HealthCare in Greenville for 4 1/2 years.
What is life like for a nurse in hospice?
“It depends on the day,” replied Coning, who received her bachelor’s in nursing degree from IUE and her master’s from Aspen University. “While hospice can be busy and draining at times, I find it rewarding and comforting knowing that I can help patients and their families in difficult times.”
As a hospice nurse, she said they help make the best of what days they have left, rather than adding days to one’s life, like in other healthcare settings. Our focus is quality not quantity.”
Coning went on, “Even though a patient’s stay in the care center might be short, we get the pleasure of developing relationships with patients and family members. I am so thankful for all the wonderful patients and families I have encountered over my 4 1/2 years with hospice and I truly hope I have impacted them as they have me.”
Coning grew up watching her mother work in hospice and seeing the difference she made in the patients’ and families’ lives made her want to be a part of this organization.
“My grandmother was on our hospice services, so I’ve also witnessed hospice care from a ‘family’ standpoint and seen how great hospice is for not only the patient but also the family,” said Coning, who previously worked in med surg/oncology at Reid Health. “Just because a patient is on hospice services does not necessarily mean they are ‘end-of-life.’ Although we do admit patients who are end-of-life, once a patient is appropriate for hospice, hospice can provide many benefits to patients and families before they reach that stage. Patients are re-evaluated frequently to determine that they are still appropriate for hospice services. Patients who might be discharged from hospice services are oftentimes upset because they love our care so much.”
Coning is just one of the people who work in the hospice center’s five-bed unit during one of the two shifts. In addition to her, there are home health aides, a social worker, a chaplain, and music therapy services that are offered to patients. They all work together to provide them with comforting and quality care.
The care center is a temporary home for any patient with a terminal illness, whether it be cancer, heart problems, respiratory failure, Alzheimer’s and even COVID patients with pneumonia or any other illness.
An average stay for a patient is less than seven days but could be more, depending on how long it takes to manage that patient’s symptoms.
Coning said she has worked with people of all ages in that unit, and she said she feels appreciated by the families.
“Up here, the family can be family and not the caregiver,” said the unit manager, Heather Bankson, a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse, who has worked for EverHeart hospice for 19 years
“I’ve worked in critical care and watched patients not have the proper, adequate end-of-life care that hospice is able to provide,” she said. “My grandfather was on hospice care many years ago and I was able to see the great care that they provided to him.”
She went on, “With hospice care, you are able to spend quality time with patients and families by being able to sit down and have meaningful conversations while providing care.”
Bankson has served as an on-call nurse, making many visits to wherever the patients called home, then became a primary nurse case manager before taking over as manager of the inpatient unit in August 2021.
“It’s very comforting knowing that you are able to get your patients to a comfortable level during their end-of-life journey while knowing the patients and families are at peace,” she said. “It can get tearful as you develop close connections with the patient and family.”
Bankson’s job at the center is to oversee the care of patients and new admissions while making sure there is adequate staff.
“We transfer patients back to their home care setting when appropriate and we continue to provide care for them in their home care setting.”
The Hospice Care Center, a short-term facility to treat and manage any symptoms that can’t be managed in home care, has been at the local hospital for eight years.
Bankson, too, loves her job there.
“It’s very rewarding…keeping patients comfortable at the end of life and allowing families to stay at their bedside,” she said.
According to her, the hospice care center gets a lot of referrals from local hospitals, using this facility as a transition to home or extended care facility setting.
Bankson is proud of the fact that they pay special tribute to veterans, by presenting them with pins and a certificate for their service to this country.
“During our veteran pinning, families have expressed gratitude for this new service, known as their legacy program, offering them special frames and photographs with patients and families,” she said. “All our services work together to honor the patients and families during their end-of-life journey with superb and comforting care.”
She also reported they have volunteers who have made blankets for the patients,” she said.
Coning said the staff has even enabled a couple to get married in the unit.
“We try to honor patient’s wishes or requests, when possible, including allowing a patient’s pet to visit” she said.
Bankson also noted they fulfilled a request from a married couple, who asked to be moved in the same room, supporting them through their end-of-life journey together.
“I love what I’m doing,” said Coning, the former Liz Livingston, who also has her master’s in education.
She would eventually like to get into education, but she’s happy with the work she is doing now.
Liz is married to Austin Livingston and is the mother of two children ages 3 and 1.
Bankson received her Bachelor of Science in nursing from Franklin University in Columbus, and her associate degree from Columbus State Community College.
Heather is married to Matt Bankson and has three children, a daughter who is in her second year of college and two sons, one a senior and the other, a seventh grader.