Home Care Nurses Tell Their Stories 2015


Tales from the Nation’s Top Home Care and Hospice Nurses


Home care and hospice nurses do more than care for patients. They also teach patients to care for themselves, and this isn’t always easy. If patients have complex conditions, they can need a lot of hands-on care, leaving less time for teaching. If patients are in pain, they may find it hard to take in new information. There also may be cultural factors in the home that affect teaching and learning or language barriers that make communication hard. In addition, home care nurses have to educate family caregivers, too, and they have to build trust to make teaching possible at all. In short, it takes special skills to help patients manage their conditions, but the best nurses succeed. You’ll hear from some of them in the profiles to come.

The 50 nurses we feature here are the winners of our Nurse Recognition Program, and they know how to seize those teachable moments to change lives. You’ll hear from an Alabama nurse whose patient had a knee replacement and who worked with her till they could walk together. You’ll meet a South Carolina nurse who believes “patient education is a priority,” so she always take time to tell patients exactly how they should take their medication. You’ll hear from a Georgia nurse who helped her patient “take charge” after an infection led to an ileostomy that worried her when she first came home. You’ll learn about a Nebraska nurse who likes to tell her patients about “the wonderful outcomes their own self-management can yield” and showed a woman with several chronic conditions how she could make positive changes in her health. You’ll meet a Connecticut nurse who used her experience with patients to offer her colleagues a “Dementia Care Academy” that combines cutting-edge practices with compassion. And you’ll hear from a California nurse who worked with a dying patient and her daughter on pain management and facing the end without fear.

Nurses like these build confidence in their patients, and give them the skills they need to remain in the comfort of their homes. Yet their achievements don’t always get the attention they deserve. Instead these nurses face shrinking resources, growing regulations, and patient loads that get heavier every year. So NAHC and HHNA have done their best to recognize those who give patients their very best. “A nation is what it honors,” said NAHC President Val J. Halamandaris, “and it is time we celebrated the silent band of heroes who give their all to care for America’s sick and dying as if they were extended family. Nurses truly are angels of mercy. They make the difference between life and death on a daily basis.”

That’s especially true for our winners who met a number of strict criteria established by a selection committee made up of members of the HHNA advisory board, NAHC’s board of directors and its Forum of State Associations. The selection committee asked all agencies to submit an essay about their nurse and answer a variety of questions: Does the nurse’s story paint a positive picture of home care and hospice? Does the story show that the nurse provided exceptional care? Does the applicant demonstrate excellence in nursing through credentials, awards, and honors? Did the applicant make a difference in their patients’ lives? And do they inspire us to be our best?

The home care and hospice nurses who appear here are among the finest, as the committee determined by vote. The celebration of their achievements begins when you read their stories. It continues when NAHC toasts them during a reception at our Annual Meeting & Exposition in Nashville Tennessee. They’re all special, but one among them stands out. Our top nurse, Sylvia Cruz of Pennsylvania, has distinguished herself through both her bilingual skills and ability to break down barriers for her patients. In honor of her achievements, she will receive a $140 gift certificate from Hopkins Medical Products, now marking 71 years in business. And NAHC will take added steps to recognize her by paying her travel and hotel expenses, in addition to buying her a new Apple iPad.

Ms. Cruz will appear on stage as the face of her profession. And as you’ll see when you read on, she has overcome numerous roadblocks to give patients access to needed care. Many of her patients don’t speak English, so she uses her language skills to advocate for them and help them understand their plan of care. A fair number of them are poor, so she helps find the resources and discounts they need. Recently she taught a cancer patient how to manage his pain, and she loves those teachable moments when she can help patients better their quality of life. Nurses like her aren’t simply a blessing to their patients. They’re living proof of what nurses can do, and they teach all of us a vital lesson: home is the best place to heal.




I have been with Alacare Home Health & Hospice in Birmingham, Alabama, since I started nursing in home care and hospice seven years ago. My name is Mary Beth Cline, and my patient, Obera Adams, has made me a better nurse. I met the Obera  and became her home care nurse on her 85th birthday, following the knee replacement she deemed necessary in order to maintain her active lifestyle. She and I worked together until we could walk together, and when she no longer needed my help the feeling was bittersweet. Although we both missed our visits together, we managed to stay in touch. One day she called me and relayed her new diagnosis of multiple myeloma–she wanted me back in her life. Together we waged war against the disease, and Obera’s plucky nature inspired me to fight even harder for her. Shortly before her 90th birthday, I became her hospice nurse. I am thankful for every moment I get to hold her hand and walk through this journey with her. As she writes the ending to her life story, I can’t express enough appreciation for her allowing me to be a part of the last few chapters.


My name is Shauna Thomason and I’ve been a nurse with Alacare Home Health & Hospice in Birmingham, Alabama, for over six years.  Our agency has a “7on7off” structure, and I always worry about my patients during my “7off” because I have high standards and like to be sure my partner meets the care level I set for my patients.  One of my most memorable patients was actually my boss!  Having been a nurse herself she, too, held high standards but had immense anxiety being on the patient end of care, with a severely broken neck and other fractures.  I knew the care experience would be complicated and terrifying for her, and I left no stone unturned in obtaining all the information I needed to care for her given the unique nature of the injuries.  Seeing this thorough effort was comforting to her. I earned my boss’s trust and respect the same as I do with all of my patients through clear communication, education, and patience.  My calm confidence eases patients’ fears so they can focus on recovery. I feel so grateful for the chance I had to show my boss the highly focused, individualized, magnanimous care I love giving to all my patients.


For the past five years I’ve been with Alacare Home Health & Hospice in Birmingham, Alabama.  My name is Craig Riddle and Ms. Slate is a recent patient of mine.  Ms. Slate underwent a challenging Whipple Procedure, which resulted in diabetes and troublesome complications.  Ms. Slate’s family was dedicated but overwhelmed with the formidable plan of care.  I walked them through every aspect of Ms. Slate’s care and patiently repeated teaching anything necessary, giving Ms. Slate’s family confidence through quality practice.  Our time working together has made me feel like a part of their family and it has eased the tension for everyone. I know that when I show strength to a patient and their her family, it’s easier for all to be stronger for each other.  I’m happy to be able to come into Ms. Slate’s home and care for all of the complicated medical issues with compassion.


My name is Rachel Self and I have been a nurse for six years and have spent the past three in hospice care.  I represent Alacare Home Health & Hospice in Alexander City, Alabama and my wonderful patient, Mrs. Kelly. Mrs. Kelly is 81 years old, and her dementia has recently led to malnutrition and significant weight loss.  Watching a parent decline is very, very difficult and Mrs. Kelly’s family has been suffering with this for several years now.  It was Mrs. Kelly’s wish to remain at home, and when the family needed assistance I stepped in. It is truly a gift to be a hospice nurse. I have been blessed not only by giving Mrs. Kelly quality patient care, but by caring for her family during this transitional time. My caring has helped give Mrs. Kelly the quality of life a woman like her deserves — one that reflects and respects who she became, all that she accomplished in her life, and the wishes and beliefs she still holds.  I love knowing that I can give this quality of life to a patient and that my gentle care allows the family to focus on continuing to love and respect each other.



I’m Jen MacDonald, and I’m a nurse with PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center Home Health Agency in Alaska. My 90-year-young patient, Ms. Doyle, suffers from diabetes complications, and chronic bone and cartilage disorder. As a nurse, I value spending quality time researching and learning about patients’ individual conditions, and sharing the knowledge with my caregiving team. I believe in building trusting relationships with my patients by opening up in complete empathy, so I can build a win-win relationship. I worked very hard for Ms. Doyle to be able to purchase an Anodyne machine, which now eases the pain in her legs and gives her a better quality of life. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to care for and learn from Ms. Doyle.



My name is Josie Fuller. I came to Nightingale/Home Healthcare after working in a fast-paced rehabilitation setting where I was responsible for up to 14 patients at a time. I knew I wanted to move to an agency that would allow me to provide steady care to fewer patients, and I brought the exceptional documentation skills I’d acquired from that job with me to Nightingale, where they have helped make me a become stronger caregiver. These days, patients are discharged after only a few days in the hospital, with a need for a higher level of care at home. I have often been welcomed by many frantic spouses trying to make sense of various hospital discharge orders. My experience with a patient, Mr. Quick, showed me that care does not always stop with a hospital discharge.  It was very rewarding being able to help the Quicks navigate the intricacies of home care following a major surgery so they could remain in the comfort of their own home. I feel like home is the optimal place for patients to recover, and I feel honored to be a part of their recovery.


My name is Thomas Decker. I’m a nurse with the Arkansas Department of Health In Home Services in the rural northwest region of the state. My 74-year-old patien, Mr. Wallace, had listeria and multiple myeloma; he required IVs and skilled nurse assessment in his home. When I visited Mr. Wallace, he could only sing praises about the care he received and how much he trusted and cared for the staff that provided his care. I worked for home delivery of his antibiotics and helped make arrangements with the IV company in order for Mr. Wallace to remain at home.  He was able to avoid readmission to a hospital or nursing home, and was even able to return to his hobby of buying and selling houses. He and his wife have been married for almost 50 years and do not like to be separated. My time with Mr. Wallace is evidence of the power and impact home health at its best can have.


I’m a hospice nurse at Optimal Hospice in Fresno, California, and my name is Salina Bugarin.  My patient Marjorie may only be 88 lbs, but she’s a big participant in her care program and a big example of how innovative approaches to caring along with collaboration are key to great hospice care. Marjorie suffers from end-stage congestive heart failure, and we established goals of care together, as well as with her daughter, Janet. Marjorie and I have worked to develop a trusting relationship with each other during visits, and that has led to successful pain management and energy conservation education. I know that Marjorie now has confidence that she will leave this world peacefully and comfortably, and hard-earned serenity like hers remains an inspiration to me.


My name is Donna Dow-Conklin, and I work as a nurse in specialized senior services at Masonicare in Wallingford, Connecticut.  I think that the technological advances in dementia care give us a crucial glimpse into the future, and that we should utilize them as leadership tools to prepare ourselves for the upcoming needs of our patients. I think it’s very important to empower a team of caregivers to try new things and be innovative in building new skills. It’s more fun to educate with a more effective finger on the pulse of modern issues.  “Reflections: A Dementia Care Academy” is a training experience I created that implements cutting-edge dementia care practices, research, and technology, with compassion blended in.  Comprehensive and compassionate approaches to needs are as important to a team of caregivers as they are to patients.



I’m Angela Monioudis, and I’m a nurse at BAYADA Home Health Care in Wilmington, Delaware.  We care for patients with all types of personalities, and I enjoy the variety in my caregiving experiences.  Showing my patients that I can identify with them through a kind, methodical, and compassionate demeanor is one of my greatest strengths. Once we establish mutual respect it’s easy to work for and enjoy progress in the care regimen while getting to know each other. But it’s important to always keep a keen eye out for the unknown, even in what might seem like predictable cases.  Not too long ago I noticed an abnormality in a neuro assessment of one of my patients recovering from two broken wrists and some severe abrasions from a motorcycle accident.  Thankfully we were able to get her to a neurologist, who wound up successfully removing the previously undiscovered brain tumor.  I find that when you can genuinely care about your patients, you wind up providing genuinely better care for them.



THA Group’s Island Hospice in Savannah, Georgia, has been my home for the past 2 years.  My name is Debbie Feliciano and it’s been wonderful to share my leadership skills and humanitarian efforts through this agency.  Sandra and John had been husband and wife for over 50 years when I first met them.  We developed a close relationship during the time I cared for Sandra, and I supported John through his bereavement.  John knew I understood how special his Sandra was.  Last year our agency informed me that John was in the hospital nearing his final days, and that his only wish was to return home for his passing with me as his nurse.  I met him at the hospital and rode with him in the ambulance so he would not be alone with strangers at such a fragile and uncertain time.  I ordered his last meal for him to give him a small comfort, and made sure he was in a peaceful place.  He passed away the next day surrounded by his family and beloved dog.  It’s a great feeling knowing I can make the last wishes of my patients come true.

My name is Emily Whaley, and I’ve been with Visiting Nurse Health System in Atlanta, Georgia for two years.  I’ve spent several years in geriatric care, and am happy to now be providing elders with home care. I value working at a not-for-profit agency, and I enjoy sharing my positive outlook and mentoring aptitudes with other nurses as well as with patients. I like all of my patients, but I have a special connection with my spunky 94-years-young patient, Clarice. Prior to being admitted to our services she had been in the hospital for several weeks with an infection that resulted in an ileostomy, and when she was discharged home she was very anxious about this new condition. I could see that she had a willingness to learn despite her apprehension, and I encouraged her to take charge. Clarice and I have made a great team and we’ve been very successful ensuring that she avoids re-hospitalization, which was one of our most important goals. Caring for patients like Clarice make being a nurse better and better every day.


I’m Karen Higgins and I love being a home care nurse.  I’ve been providing home care for nine years and have been with Amicita Home Health and Affinis Hospice Care in Watkinsville, Georgia, for three years. My patient, Matthew tells me that I make him “a more knowledgeable patient, a more compliant patient, a proactive patient, and above all a healthier patient,” but I attribute Matthew’s incredible progress to the teamwork we’ve done together. I believe in taking quality time to educate my patients. It ensures clear understanding and provides a basis for the best decision making — whether it’s in developing a plan of care or patient self-monitoring. I care for Matthew in a way that energizes him to participate. Coordinating smoothly and diligently with other doctors and healthcare providers is crucial in providing a consistent level of care, so I value taking quality time to communicate with fellow physicians as well. I’m proud to have helped Matthew in so many ways and feel confident our teamwork will result in the transplants he’s worked so hard to become a candidate for. 



I am a home care nurse for Castle Home Care in Kaneohe, Hawaii, and my name is Cynthia Perry. One of my more challenging yet rewarding cases has been with a mother and son who both needed homecare services and wanted to remain together. Marilyn, the mother, had always cared for her son, but at 89 her age, fragility, and need for her own wound care prohibited her from managing his care to the extent needed.  I helped facilitate flexibility and open-mindedness in putting together a schedule of care involving two primary care physicians, a psychiatrist, a psychiatric nurse case manager, physical and occupational therapists, hired caregivers, and family caregivers.  Together we were all able to ensure that Marilyn and her son could both remain in the comfort of their home, and receive the diligent care they deserve.


I’m Karen Cannon, and at Visions Home Health and Visions Home Care LLC in Twin Falls, Idaho, I’m a pediatric nurse. I met Jesus R. and his family when he was only 1-1/2 years old. Jesus was having complications with Pre-B-cell acute lymphocytic leukemia, so he received a PICC line for antibiotics and chemotherapy. I saw him regularly for PICC line maintenance and to keep an eye out for chemo side effects.  It was difficult for Jesus’s parents, who struggled speaking English, to understand and learn their roles for monitoring certain issues but I knew that providing a soft and loving bedside manner would go a long way to calm some of the worries we could take control over.  Non-verbal acts of caring, and getting to know Jesus’s family in other ways allowed me to anticipate issues they might be facing, and allowed me to plan accordingly to help minimize these issues.



BraynardMy name is Rose Braynard and I am a nurse at St. Jude Hospice in Urbandale, Iowa.  I’ve been taking care of hospice patients for over 21 years and believe each patient has a unique story worth learning so I can communicate and care effectively.  It ensures my patients feel love, kindness, and respect in the end-of-life stages.  My patients Jennie and her husband David have been married for over 65 years and are both Holocaust survivors, having each spent 5 years in concentration camps.  Jennie now requires care for dementia/Alzheimer’s, but they want to remain together.  To me, what I do is not work.  Doing everything I can to make Jennie happy gives me such joy, and it also gives David boundless joy to see his loving wife so happy.  I’ve learned to communicate with David in special ways about Jennie’s treatment, therapy, and progression, because enabling him to understand what is happening and give the best care he can to his wife is part of everybody’s goal here.  Occasionally I’ll reach out to Jennie and David’s son about visits, which helps him understand his parents’ struggle and enables him to give them better care as well. Breathing quality of life into the sick and elderly is a wonderful gift.



I’m Melissa Transue, and I’m proud to be a nurse with Douglas Country Visiting Nurses Association, Inc. in Lawrence, Kansas.  I feel lucky that my career has spanned many disciplines over my 34 years in nursing, and my past five years in the hospice program have been the most rewarding.  One of my patients, Mr. Bond, is a 93-year old gentleman with congestive heart failure. Mr. Bond’s wife is unable to care for him by herself, but is reluctant to give up her caregiving role.  It has been wonderful to develop a relationship with Bonnie, and support her in making sure her husband is provided the most thorough and personal care.  I like showing my patients and their families that I can be a valuable team member in caring for their loved one.  I want them to feel 100% confident that I am their advocate, not their replacements in care.  We share the same goals and can constantly learn from and about each other.


My name is Kathy Worthington, and for 32 years I have been a nurse. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in home health at Caregivers Home Health in Topeka, Kansas.  I’ve always been a go-getter, and it serves me well as a nurse.  It fuels my tenacity to make sure my patients get the best care and that my teammates and fellow nurses get the best support.  The “get it done” attitude has even led me to enlist my husband to drive me around in his four-wheel-drive care in inclement weather to make sure my patients are taken care of. I currently care for a 63 year old woman who is quadriplegic, and the car I provide for her allows her to live successfully at home as a paraplegic patient. Having the opportunity to enrich her life every day and exceed her expectations for quality of life is what makes being a home health nurse so gratifying. 



I have been a nurse in New Roads, Louisiana for Pointe Coupée Homebound Health and Hospice for over 30 years.  My name is Ella Knight and my patient Ms. Bondy is 83 years old with end-stage COPD and asthma, and is O2 dependent.  Providing hospice care in a small and rural area has some very precious benefits.  I am related to or acquainted with most of the community members, and it seems that wherever I go I encounter family members or friends of my patient Ms. Bondy.  It’s wonderful knowing that the care I give to her touches so many other people because of the tight-knit feeling in our community.  Their kind words and the gift of knowing they’re so appreciative of the care for their loved ones is humbling and truly inspiring.  I enjoy being the clinical nurse manager and ADON for our agency as well.  It allows me the privilege of daily consultation with my nurses to ensure that all our patients’ needs are being met.



I’m a nurse at Androscoggin Home Care & Hospice in Lewiston, Maine, and my name is Tina Charest. I work mainly with high-risk patients and those with high emergency utilization.  I have worked very hard on our agency’s new “Hospital to Home” program.  It helps bridge the gap in care as patients transition from the hospital back to their homes, an issue I care deeply about helping to resolve.  I’ve had many experiences with patients that have forever changed me, and I’m especially happy for the opportunity I had to care for Skip.  Although he was initially referred to us for disease management and medication control, I discovered he was in need of more services and accompanied him to many medical appointments to ease his stress and be his advocate.  During these visits, I was able to help determine that Skip had been living with an undiagnosed chronic illness, and through my assistance he was able to continue living independently in his own home and be successful in his own journey.


My name is Janet Fuller and I have been a nurse with Medical Resources Home Health Corporation in Newton, Massachusetts, for the past 23 years. I am lucky to have developed a gift working with patients who suffer from behavioral health issues including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and paranoia.  Unfortunately, care for psychiatric illnesses can be inadequate and hard to find.  Because of this, I take all calls from patients who need help even when I’m not working. The development of these personal relationships is crucial for patients who are mentally fragile and who can have difficulty trusting others. I volunteered to care for a man whose behavioral care could often be inappropriate. I wanted to care for him so that others would not have to be exposed to his behaviors. I knew my approach to care would make him feel safe, and would lead to his compliance with his care plan. This made everybody better. I am proud to provide great care through some of life’s most difficult circumstances.  Everyone deserves love and thoughtful care.


I’m Jennifer Pereira and I’m a home care nurse with Medical Resources Home Health Corporation in Newton, Massachusetts. The joy I get from improving the lives of my patients is the best thing about being a home care nurse. It makes me want to go above and beyond for every patient to make his or her life the very best it can possibly be. I know that with grit and grace most roadblocks can be hurdled and patient care goals can be met. With perseverance, solid clinical knowledge, and a desire to make things happen, I was able to get a young male MVA patient into an appropriate comprehensive rehabilitation facility. I enjoy training new clinicians and sharing with them what benefits mental toughness and honed skills can bring to patients, their families, our agency, and each other as team members in caring. 



My name is Jamie Armstrong. I transitioned from EMS into nursing school to become an RN and then joined Porter Hills Home Care in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I’ve been a caregiver for about 2 years.  My clinical skills and sharp observation and judgement abilities from being a paramedic have been great strengths to have as a home care nurse and case manager. It has provided a great base of experience to understand the critical nature of “team” in giving the best possible care to people who need it. I also like bringing treats to my patients when there are special celebrations in their lives as an additional touch of kindness. It helps me live in the moment with them because we all know how things can change drastically minute to minute in home care.  It gives me great pleasure to listen to my patients’ stories and share use sense of humor to comfort them, and I look forward to many great years as a home care nurse.


My name is Gina Michelson and I’ve been with Caring and Compassionate Healthcare Agency, LLC for a little less than 2 years.  I enjoy giving 110% effort in my care whether it’s clinical or emotional. As an RN, I have the pleasure of providing care to one patient in particular who has helped me realize how appreciative we should all be towards each other. Leonard is 90 years old with Parkinsons’s and dementia, and he requires home care to ensure he can safely perform his activities of daily living. He is a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy, is proud to have been a school janitor in his community, and remains a proud family man. His soft pats to the shoulders of staff members who care for him remind me that everything we do for him makes a big difference in his quality of life and outlook for the future. I love making him happy and helping him accomplish even more to be proud of in the years to come.




I’m a nurse at Forrest General Home Care & Hospice in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and my name is Karen McDay. I’m a proud recipient of the 2014 WE CARE award at Forrest General Hospical, and I like using my background in intensive care nursing to enrich the care I give. In my opinion, being positive, encouraging, and compassionate can be just as important to patient and their familes as outstanding clinical knowledge.  Patients with technical complexities spark my drive to find the best methods of care.  My patient Marjorie is 16 years old with spina bifida, a congenital heart defect, and complications in her venous and autoimmune systems.  She was looking forward to her “Sweet 16” but knew her usual celebration wouldn’t be possible.  I discovered her favorite animal was a sloth, and was able to arrange for the new sloth at our local zoo to make a home visit to Marjorie. It was a wonderful moment to make her so happy on her special day and give her an emotional treat in addition to the physical treatments of our regular visits. I take extra time to share my knowledge with Marjorie’s mother so she, too, can give the best care possible to her daughter.



My name is Kimberly Roderique and I’m a nurse with BJC Home Care & Hospice in St. Louis, Missouri. I think that excellent education is the key to providing excellent care for end-of-life patients. I wrote a booklet for patients and families that discusses the end-of-life process and lays out signs, symptoms, expectations, and suggestions for increasing the comfort level of loved ones. I like spending as much time as I can creating educational materials for caregiving classes and RNs in end-of-life competency and orientation, and giving presentations and support to staff and peers on end-of-life care. My 65 year old patient Keith got to be the lucky secret-keeper of the gender of his soon-to-arrive grandchild. Though his esophageal cancer and liver metastases left him too weak for home care, he had a reason to smile in the hospital. With his last smile Keith told me his secret, and then we got the call from one floor below that the baby was coming! Within 20 minutes Keith took his last breath, and we all cherished the moment, acknowledging that a great life had passed and a great life was about to begin.



My name is Tawnya Gilchrist and I’m a home health nurse at Benefis Spectrum Medical in Great Falls, Montana. My previously healthy 54-year-old patient, William, suffered a T7 spinal injury from a fall, which left him paralyzed from the waist down. Between his time at the hospital and being at home in a safe and suitable environment, we worked together on practicing catheterization techniques, treating healing pressure/trauma wounds, controlling extremity spasms, implementing a bowel program, and managing pain. I aided Bill in every way I could to set him up with the proper doctors and community resources that would allow him to move forward in his treatment. With diligence and optimism we have conquered all of the challenges in the way, and achieved all of Bill’s short-term goals!  He now has the tools to continue physical and occupational therapy with a positive and educated outlook.



I have been a registered nurse for 43 years. My name is Peggy Meyer and I’m proud to be part of the Good Samaritan Society Hastings Village Home Health care team in Hastings, Nebraska.  I feel inspired by my patients every day and live for the knowledge that my actions make a positive impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  But I also like telling my patients about the wonderful outcomes their own self-management can yield, and sharing how their participation can make a difference in their own future. My patient, 64-years-old Pamela, struggles with chronic CHF, CIPD, and diabetes. I saw it as my duty to educate her as much as possible and empower her by giving her decision-making opportunities.  Using telehealth monitoring for her fluid retention and wearing BI-Pap helped Pamela realize she could help create positive changes in her health. I’m proud to have helped her enjoy her life and her family so much more.



My name is Bonnie Schmidt. I have loved being a registered nurse for over a decade, and currently care for patients at St. Rose Dominican Hospital Home Health Services in Las Vegas, Nevada. Karla, my special patient, is an author who fierce battles her quadriplegia. When I first began caring for her I was shocked to learn she endured frequent re-hospitalizations. It seemed to me the reasons for re-hospitalization were mostly avoidable, and that Karla’s quality of life would vastly improve if her care team could work together to give her better nutrition and prevent the UTIs and bed sores that landed her back in the hospital. Karla and I have developed a great friendship. We laugh and share stories as well as a belief in good old-fashioned nursing care.  There was one time Karla was faced with potential HOA fines for weeds in her yard.  I was able to get aid from a local church group, and we helped Karla avoid the fees.  I’m happy to report she has stayed out of the hospital for the past 20 months!

New Hampshire


My name is Holly Knowles and I care for my 80-year-old patient, Mrs. Cawley, through North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency in Littleton, New Hampshire. Mrs. Cawley suffers from complications of a knee replacement and requires wound care for a decubitus ulcer. I find home care nursing incredibly satisfying. The one-on-one time I get with patients in my community, and being invited to be part of a family unit is so rewarding and inspiring. I had met Mrs. Cawley when providing hospice care to her now departed husband. I was proud that I’d been a calming presence in their home during that difficult time and thankful that I understood how she was affected by the loss of her husband.  Coming back to care for Mrs. Cawley was like coming back to visit an old friend.  Now as her nurse, I care for her wounds, teach her about medications, and check her blood pressure. Patients like her have taught me enduring life lessons about facing adversity.

New Jersey


My name is Jennifer Garrison and I am a nurse for William through the Visiting Nurse Association of Northern New Jersey in Morristown. I care for a wonderful patient, William, who is 84 with congestive heart failure.  When William was diagnosed with CHF, he and his wife thought they would need to move from their home to a care facility in order for him to be closely observed.  I was able to get William into a telehealth program with a unit installed in their home so they could remain comfortable there, and I carefully introduced William and his wife on how to use it. The telehealth unit helps prevent hospital stays by giving us the information we need to adjust medication levels and avoid other potential emergency and acute care episodes. Though we still enjoy seeing each other at regularly scheduled visits, William and his wife have peace of mind from knowing that his condition is being monitored daily and he can still live independently with confidence.

New Mexico


My name is Columbus Williams, but I go by “C.O.” to my patients, family, and friends.  I’m a hospice nurse with Heritage Home Healthcare & Hospice in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I’m lucky to have a very special patient, Flores. He is 96 years old with COPD and I visit him weekly to monitor his respiratory and heart symptoms.  Flores suffers from some short-term memory problems, so we’ve made a unique connection through my love of history and his WWII experience as a B-24 bomber navigator in World War II.  When I see him, he taps into his long-term memory and enriches me with his stories. It enables me to put him at ease while I conduct my nursing visit duties. This personal interaction also makes our time together especially meaningful, and much more than routine. My visits with Flores give me as much hope and motivation as I bring to him!

New York


I’m Linda Fraser and I care for my patient Dina through the Visiting Nurse Association of Hudson Valley in Tarrytown, New York. I’m privileged to have worked in end-of-life care for more than 20 years, and recently my participation led to the launching of the palliative care program at our agency. I like my care to focus on individual patients, their journey, and achieving whatever matters most to them. Dina has been fighting cancer for over two years, and recently she appeared to have given up. She’d stopped eating, bathing, and playing with her young daughter so I arranged for a local salon to give her a spa day to see if that would lift her spirits. Both mother and daughter enjoyed makeovers, but it was Dina’s mood that changed the most. She told me at our next visit that she felt like a princess, and her health had measurably improved. It’s people like Dina, and the things we can do for them in palliative, home, and hospice care that make what I do for a living so rewarding.

North Carolina


I’m a nurse with BAYADA Home Health Care in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I have the pleasure of caring for Aaron an amazing young man, who goes by Ari. My name is Billy Koehler and my relationship with Ari is particularly special because we both love computers. Ari’s SMA-1 makes him technology dependent, and I have a degree in computer science. I can keep his computer and hardware running in top shape. Ari’s mom works full time and needed house repairs that can get overlooked. Fortunately, I also have an interest in restoring houses so it’s given me great pleasure to help out with repairs and chores. I like stopping by the house in my off-hours, too, just to check in and make sure Ari and his mom are okay. I get a lot of fulfillment caring for Ari and his mom as a whole. My job as a nurse is to care about my patient in every way I can, so I do.

North Dakota


My name is Jody Zieke, and I have been a nurse at Sanford Home Care in Fargo, North Dakota, for the past eight years. My patient, Mr. Roller has neuropathy, and vision and hearing impairment. During our nursing visits for Mr. Roller’s CHF, I observed that he was unable to take his medications and insulin correctly due to his neuropathy and vision impairment. I contacted the Veterans Administration and received authorization for skilled nursing visits to provide assessments and medications setup, fill insulin syringes and reorder medications. Mr. Roller faces challenges with his other conditions as well, and he knows he can depend on me to intervene promptly by collaborating with the heart clinic and his other physicians in order to prevent re-hospitalization.  I like taking a holistic approach to nursing, involving families and communities in my patient care. My efforts with Mr. Roller are rewarded. The care he gets from me helps him take better care of himself.



I’m Wendy Most and I work with Akron General Visiting Nurse Service, Inc. in Akron, Ohio, where I have provided home care for the past 13 of my 28 years as a nurse. My work is very rewarding and I enjoy making a difference in my patients’ lives every day. My patient, Barbara, is 84 years old with cellulitis that requires wound care to her lower legs, and peripheral neuropathy. Barbara was a member of “WAF” (Women in the Air Force) in the 1950s and was even a model for one of their advertisements. I feel lucky for every moment I get to spend with this tenacious, nation-changing woman. The care I’ve provided for Barbara has been about more than her own personal care and healing; she also coped with her husband’s illness and subsequent passing, an ordeal for their children as well. My fellow staff members and I found extra time to give Barbara as much support and comfort as we could. I admire Barbara in so many ways and I love how my patients inspire me to be mindful in all that I do every day. 


I have been a hospice nurse with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center Home Care & StarShine Hospice in Cincinnati, Ohio, for the past 8 years and my name is Michelle Rudisell.  Developing relationships with a patient’s family is one of the best parts of being a hospice nurse because it brings a third dimension to care. Last year baby Sean was born with a heart defect and several other congenital anomalies. With medication to support his life for a brief time, Sean went home with his family to spend what was thought to be his last few hours together. The doctor, another nurse, and I were waiting at the home for the family to arrive. Friends and family came to say goodbye and the time came to discontinue the medication. Sean amazingly lived another day in the arms of his loving parents, surrounded by friends, family, and our caregiving team, and passed peacefully the next morning. It makes me glad to know that with my help, Sean’s parents were able to give their baby boy some tender love and at home. 



I work in Oklahoma City as a registered nurse at Choice Home Health and Hospice, where I’ve proudly cared for patients over the course of 12 years. My name is Trameka Dathard and my patient is Mr. Green. Mr. Green is only 59 years old, and had been suffering frequent re-hospitalizations due to his congestive heart failure exacerbations. Before I came to care for him, he was being readmitted to the hospital as many as three times a month and I knew I could help him. I developed a close relationship to Mr. Green’s cardiologist and eagerly coordinated care for his COPD, GI bleed, and atrial fibrillation conditions as well. I continue to teach Mr. Green how to manage his symptoms and medication, and monitor his laboratory values.  He lives alone and knows I will come running whenever he needs me. We are both so grateful to have worked together in improving his quality of life–it’s achieved his goals as well as mine.



My name is Bonnie Edgerly and I’m a nurse at Providence Hospice in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been a hospice and palliative care nurse for 20 years, and I am proud of the great care I’ve given that has helped me achieve my Clinical Ladder Level 4 status. My current patient, Steven, is 51 years old with muscular dystrophy and he amazes me every day. Steven was diagnosed as a young teenager and he has been able to build incredible inner strength despite his decline in his physical strength. His inner strength inspires me and our interaction makes us both stronger and better people. It’s motivated me to discover as many resources as possible and to provide the best care I can.




My name is Sylvia Cruz and I’m a bilingual nurse at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia. After a poor home care experience of my own, I vowed to become a home care nurse who would be a blessing to my patients. I’m proud to have done so for 17 years, and I use my bilingual abilities to advocate for those who can’t speak for themselves due to a language barrier. My patients live in impoverished areas and I understand why socioeconomic challenges and suboptimal living conditions may prevent them from following a doctor’s plan of care. I like to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding resources for discounts or free items for my patients, or reducing barriers to care in any way I can. I recently worked with a terminally ill oncology patient, teaching him how to stabilize his pain and blood pressure so he could maintain the quality of life we both wanted for him. While he was still able to eat I’d bring him treats from a local restaurant, and it made me so happy to see his smile. Until the very end, he never failed to tell me how grateful he was for my visits. Patients like him are the reason I can’t imagine doing anything other than home care nursing.

South Carolina


My name is Megan Hollandsworth and I am a nurse for THA Group’s Island Hospice in Bluffton, South Carolina.  My patient, Elizabeth, was in her 30s and had terminal cervical cancer that had spread to her brain. She was single, living with her mother, and had chosen to end treatments with the hope that it would allow her to enjoy more of her remaining time.  As her cancer progressed, my visits mostly involved pain management and emotional support; And although Elizabeth was devastated by her illness and severe pain, she reminded me, that living in the moment and bringing joy to others is what matters most. I attended her funeral to offer support and get needed closure to our experience.  I felt so lucky to have been a part of her life and provided her as much enjoyment as was possible. Elizabeth’s was a life I touched, her family has told me. But I feel more rewarded by the way our patients touch our lives as nurses. It’s why I do what I do. 


I may be a relatively new nurse, but I like to think that my big heart often gives me a big advantage in the care I can give others. My name is Bethany Pond and I work with Interim HealthCare of Greenville, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina.  I met my current 71-year-old patient, Ray, after he was suddenly hospitalized for newly discovered endocarditis. He developed congestive heart failure, was placed on home oxygen, and required daily IV antibiotics and weekly labs. I immediately installed a telemonitor to help him and his wife monitor his vitals from their home. I was able to teach them about his condition in a way they could understand and participate in. I helped Ray’s wife plan meals with ingredients that would be tasty but still accommodate his new dietary restrictions. It can be hard for elderly citizens to adjust to new routines, and it was wonderful to help this couple be proactive and creative with health care. My support has helped them stay happy. 


I am a nurse and former manager with Interim HealthCare of Greenville, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina. My name is Cheryl Buffa and I decided to leave my managerial role and return to patient care because I missed the direct role I could play in impriving a persons quality of life when they need it most. My patient, Mr. Dotson, is 80-years-old with kidney disease and COPD.  Before I began to see him, Mr. Dotson was having trouble breathing and taking his medication properly. Patient education is a priority, and I make sure to take the time and explain exactly what medications to take and when to take them. I stop to answer his every question.  He has enjoyed the learning, and in turn his breathing and general quality of life have both drastically improved. This is what I love so much about being a nurse, and am so happy to be doing again.  

SC_Wilson My name is Rose Wilson and I’ve been a hospice nurse for over 18 years. I’m honored to have cared for over 365 patients in the past seven years at the Interim Hospice program of Interim HealthCare of Greenville, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina. My current patient Tanya is a young, vibrant woman with small school-aged children, but she also has metastatic breast cancer.  It has been an extremely difficult time for her and her family, but Tanya and I have worked together to develop a plan of care that not only gives Tanya comfort, but allows her to be as functional and involved with her children’s lives. I see my role as a hospice nurse as a continual paradox: I am faced with the gravity of life as it reaches its closing, but am also fortunate to see the triumphs of a life fully lived. As I care for the man whose life is cut short prematurely due to cancer, I am also blessed to care for the octogenarian whose life has reached its potential. My job helps remind me of the importance of living life to the fullest.

I’m Victoria Lomax, and I’m a nurse with Interim Hospice through Interim HealthCare of Greenville, Inc. in Greenville, South Carolina. My current patient Mr. Clardy, at 71 years old, suffers from Congestive Heart Failure.  I came to care for him because I’d previously cared for his mother-in-law, and Mr. Clardy and I had established a relationship at that point.  I felt so honored when he called my agency and asked for me specifically, and I was happy to return to his family.  They call me often, struggling with the gravity of facing a loved one’s end-of-life.  I listen patiently, offer reassurance when needed, and make trips to see him.  Being invited back by a family to care for another member is reassuring and humbling at the same time.  It’s a reminder that stellar hospice nursing is as much about the interpersonal relationships as it is about clinical aspects.


I am a proud nurse with BAYADA Home Health Care in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I’ve been there for 12 years.  My name is Ruth Murray and my patient’s name is Ms. Hardy. She is 26 years old with cerebral palsy and complex mental challenges.  Ms. Hardy suffered the loss of her mother and grandmother in very short succession, and it has been very difficult on her emotional and physical health.  I make sure Ms. Hardy gets the best care possible, and the best coordination possible of her doctors, medications, and supplies.  I have tried my hardest to be her shelter in the storm, and I feel comforted knowing I have comforted her.  It is so important to me that Ms. Hardy gets the human touch and compassion she deserves.  I love to see her smile while she listens to her favorite music or watches her favorite movie.  Taking care of her does not feel like a job.  It’s about giving care and love and receiving it in the most wonderful way.

South Dakota

My name is Barb Malmberg and I’m a nurse with Avera@Home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Many people in our state live in rural areas far from hospitals, clinics, or pharmacies. It can be difficult to access various services, and that’s part of why I believe quality, dedicated home health care is so important here. No one should be disadvantaged because of the location of their home or distance from a facility. I recently cared for a premature newborn with very young parents. They needed a nurse who could explain why a preemie needs special formula and help them locate it through the WIC clinic program. I discovered that the new parents did not have the funds to drive 200 miles to the nearest WIC clinic or pay for the special formula. So, I took it upon myself to get these parents the formula their baby so desperately needed. We all need help sometimes, and I love  helping out patients and their families all of the ways I know how.

My name is Lora Nelson and I’m a nurse for Sanford Home Health and Hospice in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. One of the best things about my role is when I can help a patient achieve a better quality of life. It was my honor to care for an independent woman who defined her goal as being able to make her own choices as long as possible. As the end of her time drew near her appetite decreased but she did receive a box of chocolates as a gift. Soon after, she decided chocolates were the only things she wanted to eat for the remainder of her time. Although this was distressing to her family, I provided education and encouragement, and helped my patient’s family understand her goals and wishes for this difficult transition. I was so grateful to help her remain in her home, as happy as possible, and making her own decision until her time came.


My name is Kristy Franks and for the past five years I have been a home health nurse at Meritan, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee.  In February of 2015 I began seeing patients for Community Response to Elder Abuse, a newly coordinated group formed in Memphis. My responsibilities include performing an initial assessment of the victim, coordinating the medical director and establishing the home health plan of care. One of my patients was an elderly gentleman who had been abused. It was a bit unnerving knowing my documentation could be used by the police for his case, but it broke my heart to see his injuries. He was admitted to the hospital, and I gave my personal cell phone number so that discharge could be coordinated sensitively and safely. I worked countless hours with the team and insurance case manager to assist in getting him long-term placement in a safe environment with reliable caregivers who’d be able to manage his medication and Dementia-related behaviors. Knowing he is safe and well makes every late night and weekend hour more than worth it. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help some of our community’s most vulnerable people.



I’m Connie Martinez and I’ve been a nurse at Wichita Home Health Service in Wichita Falls, Texas, for a total of nine years. Not too long after I joined the agency I took some time off to further my education in infusion therapy. I was thrilled to get back to Wichita Home Health, and although I was returning with my own newly diagnosed case of Parkinson’s disease, I was also returning with renewed dedication, ambition, and optimism. I disclosed my condition at my interview and declared confidently that I could do the job, when asked about my abilities.  I was hired on the spot and have made sure that decision was never regretted. I continue to lead the infusion team, and am often the one other nurses call for patients who are difficult to stick for lab draws.  It means the world to me to have such lovely relationships with my patients, and I must confess there are some who will only see me!  I still work full time and believe in the power of team work. Sometimes I think a higher authority takes over to steady my hands when performing intravenous tasks.  I could not be a luckier nurse. When I give, I receive.


My name is Dolly Shelley. I have been a hospice nurse for 25 years and have enjoyed fulfilling more supervisory roles for the past 10 or 15 years at Bristol Hospice LLC in Salt Lake City, Utah. It gives me great pleasure to mentor and support the members of our clinical team and to teach others about being excellent hospice case managers. I think what makes good nurses great nurses is caring just as much about the team as we care about our patients. One of my patients was a 72 year-old woman named Toshiko. She had end-stage renal failure and no family, but we were kindred spirits. It delighted me to bring her treats and arrive for my visits in a kimono, and we dabble in speaking Japanese. I knew these things would bring her serenity.  A year ago, I used my vacation time to help care for a fellow nurse on my team who struggled with a hospitalized family member. I wanted to help bolster her inner strength because in turn it would help her provide better care for patients.



I used to be an oncology nurse in a hospital setting, but I transitioned to hospice care and have worked at Franklin County Home Health Agency in St. Albans City Vermont for 15 years. My name is Annette Blanchard and I made the change because I value the principle of being able to be at home and with family.  Hospice is a better care model for my patients, and it can afford them a precious sense of dignity during a difficult time. My patient Merrie was 55 years old and struggling to face her multiple conditions and terminal diagnosis of malabsorption disorder. She had grieved the loss of most of her capabilities and had begun to grieve the upcoming loss of herself.  I felt so fulfilled helping Merrie to stay calm through what she deemed “family drama” as things progressed.  It has been an honor to guide her to peace.



I’m Terri Anderson and I’ve been a nurse for 31 years, mostly in home health. I am now with Continuum Home Health Care in Charlottesville, Virginia. Because of home health, people are able to stay in their own homes and be cared for by family. I love being a part of the team that helps people have the best quality of life that their condition allows. I believe in calm, confident care – a nurse’s demeanor can change everything for the patient! I recently cared for an 83 year old with a history of Parkinson’s and dementia. She fell out of her wheelchair and sustained fractures that put her in severe pain with limited mobility. I was able to work with the family and start a pain management regimen that did not interact with her Parkinson’s or dementia. She is now able to participate in many of the activities she’d previously enjoyed, and can eat meals at a table with her family. Because of the teamwork between home health and family, she is now able to have the best quality of life that her condition allows.


My name is Sharon Williams and I am a nurse with Continuum Home Health Care in Charlottesville, Virginia. I have had the privilege to care for 54-year-old J. Whalen, who, though a colon cancer patient with recent metastases to the liver, is a successful business owner who works from home. J.’s wounds needed extensive dressing changes, and during my time caring for her wounds I discovered an abscess that was causing her severe pain. Helping her adjust to the care routines that enable her to continue her role in her running her business has been a wonderful experience for both of us, and has reaffirmed tomy belief in the value of home health. I bring added strength to my job as an ordained minister.  It helps me articulate a strategic and visionary philosophy to nursing care, and has made me a better leader for the shared governance team. I feel blessed to be a home health nurse who can use my knowledge to make life better for patients and fellow nurses.

West Virginia

I’m Dan Brindo, and I care for patients at Roane HomeCare, part of the LHC Group, Inc., in Spencer, West Virginia. My patient Geraldine, had to have a pacemaker/defibrillator replaced in 2009 and suffers from diabetes, congestive heart failure, COPD, and asthma. The Roane HomeCare staff and I provide her with great care, and help her support the her family. Because of this coordination, Geraldine can stay in the comfort of her home surrounded by the mementos and collections she loves. It’s always wonderful to hear Geraldine say how good we are to her, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. When any of the staff come to visit she says, “We just have a blast, and I feel I’m with good people.”



My name is Linda Felix and I’ve been a nurse for 20 years, having spent the last 12 with Horizon Home Care & Hospice in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Marcellee is one of my patients and at 64 years old of age suffers from multiple comorbidities, needing home care for her lower extremity wounds, cellulitis, venous insufficiency, and lymphedema. Marcellee is a particularly special patient because she is a retired nurse practitioner and nursing educator. She wants to continue educating and misses her nursing career. I like mentoring my peers as well and being a role model for good practices. Marcellee tells me that she has taught many people the tasks of nursing, but few have the heart for it. She says I have the heart for it.  Marcellee continues to teach me many things about nursing each day that I visit her, and she shows me that even people with limitations can still have so much to offer the world.  I am thankful for every moment I have with her.




My name is Kyla Murray and I care for my patient Owen (he goes by “Dean”) through West Park Hospital Home Health and Spirit Mountain Hospice in Cody, Wyoming.  Dean is 86-years-old and has been a paraplegic for the past 40. For several years, I have cared for his wounds, fractures, routine Foley catheter changes, lab draws, and injections. Getting to know Dean has been a highlight of my nursing career, and it raises our spirits when he tells me about his adventures in his life. Every now and then I’ll bring him a cinnamon roll, which I know he loves, and that’s become a special little thing of ours.  I have also learned so much from Dean about the challenges he faces and the manner in which he deals with them.  As a result, I have become a better nurse.  Thank you Dean!