Dottie Schonlau discusses her Caregiver award and the future of hospice nursing
What would you like to say about your recognition at last year’s VOYCE Caregiver awards?
Receiving the award was very much an honor. I was surprised and very happy. I was especially happy for VNA because all of us work very hard in our work, and it was great to be recognized.
Why did you become a hospice nurse?
Seventeen years ago I was doing patient infusion therapy, which required me to travel a lot. During this time, my 29-year old son died suddenly and it began to put things in perspective for me. I took a leave of absence from work, and I began to reflect on my life and how I wanted to use my talents. It was then I determined I wanted to spend my time helping others going through an end-of-life experience. So, when it was time to go back to work, I committed my skills and time to hospice nursing. I have been a hospice e nurse for 15 years and a nurse for 52 years. God has directed me to my work, and I know I am in the right place.
Do you have a favorite memory as a hospice nurse?
We’re a small company and we have had a lot of deaths in our hospice family. In my work, I have been blessed to be there at the very end for many of my patient’s lives. It is an honor to be a part of their journey and in celebrating their life. I often go into a patient’s home as a stranger to them and their family members, but I leave as a part of their family. To provide compassionate care that is meaningful to everyone during the most vulnerable time of life is so special. I thank each person I have met for allowing me to be a part of their journey.
What do you feel is the future of hospice nursing?
Hospice care is going through a transition that includes pain management and continual home care based on aggressive treatment they receive at the hospital. This will force the rules of engagement and offerings to change, but hospice nurses need to remember to provide the compassionate care that is required and make sure each patient remains comfortable. Families will continue to need support and our assessments need to be made. In all, patients will have more resources and options for continued care.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a VNA nurse in St. Louis?
In my work, compassionate care and personal life experiences are important to lead understanding and knowledge. Many of our nurses have a strong spiritual foundation that helps them provide the compassion needed to our patients and their families. Additionally, many of our nurses have been an integral part of caring for their own loved ones. These experiences have undoubtedly helped shape our work for others.
Additionally, because the VNA is a smaller nonprofit organization, we’re able to better control our work with patients in their home. This control enables us to spend more time with our patients and learn about their individual needs. We give great, compassionate care because we’re able to customize each patient interaction; an attribute that has been lost among other hospice nursing organizations due to quotas and various business constraints.