Why I’m Honored to be a Hospice CNA
When you think of the word hospice, what comes to mind?
You may feel uncomfortable if you associate it with death. You may feel grateful if someone you love has received hospice care. You may feel fearful if you’re not sure what hospice really involves.
Say the word to Ruby Staley, and she’ll tell you she feels honored. That’s because she is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at The Denver Hospice. CNAs like Ruby provide some of the most personal care – from bathing and feeding patients to listening to and supporting families.
Ruby has been a CNA for seven years and part of The Denver Hospice team for two. As part of the northwest team, she travels all over – from Erie to Golden Gate and Wheat Ridge to Westminster – visiting between four and nine patients a day in assisted living facilities, private homes and skilled nursing facilities. Ruby is there during some of the most intimate and oftentimes embarrassing moments of a patient’s life. She is also there for some of the most difficult and heartbreaking moments for families. But she remains empathetic and professional.
“It’s really just an honor. It’s an honor for them to let us in. We are coming in when they’re losing a loved one. When a mother is losing her child, or when a husband is losing his wife. It’s amazing to be there for them during what could be the hardest time in their life.”
Her response to those that react to the word hospice with fear and anxiety?
“Of course I acknowledge that it can be hard. But people don’t have to go through it alone. I think the key to doing this job is to figure out a way to break the ice, make them smile, and by the end have them laughing.”
When asked about the hardest part about her job, she paused for a moment before slowly answering “When you lose a patient. It never gets easier.”
When a patient dies, CNAs often have little time in their busy schedule to grieve. They may have known the patient for a few days or may have been working with them for months. Either way, they were touched by that individual. They grieve quietly and gracefully. Ruby uses driving time between visiting patients to reflect on her emotions. She also focuses on her life outside of work.
Losing a patient is hard. Losing a family member is devastating. Ruby is no stranger to this feeling, as her grandmother passed away in care of The Denver Hospice.
“She passed away two years ago this August. I was working at The Denver Hospice at the time, and took a leave of absence to take care of her. It really gave me a new perspective. She was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer and was given 30 to 60 days to live, and sure enough, she passed away within 30 days.”
“That experience helped reassure my family that I am in the right place. I think they questioned my choice of going into hospice. I mean, everyone is scared of death to an extent. So when my kind, gentle grandmother passed, it helped them see that the care she received from our hospice team was critical and important. The work we do matters.”
CNAs are the quiet heroes in hospice care. They listen, serve and care. They’re truly selfless.
Upon being asked about her decision to work in hospice care, Ruby replies, “Being a CNA for The Denver Hospice is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”