Visiting Nurse Association’s Kenna Hutson could be forgiven for saying “nursing rocks” because most of her life as a child was spent dreaming, some day, of becoming an archeologist.
It was her father, a physicist, who pulled Kenna aside during her senior year in high school and informed her that the “Indian Jones journey” was likely to lead to more teaching than exploring. He suggested she give nursing a try, and she listened. But not immediately.
In 1983, she attended the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing, but Kenna withdrew in her first year shortly after Thanksgiving to pursue other interests in her life.
It wasn't until 1989 that she’d return to nursing. She reenrolled at the Jewish Hospital’s School of Nursing, and she graduated in 1994.
Kenna worked as a nurse’s aide while in school, so she found a job right away in a 120-bed nursing facility in Florissant, Missouri - just north of St. Louis City. But, after a few years she followed her parents who had moved to Columbia, Missouri.
For the next decade, Kenna worked as an ICU nurse in Columbia. She then returned to the St. Louis area and worked as a ICU nurse at a regional hospital.
Shortly after returning to St. Louis, Kenna began searching for something new; something more meaningful. So, she explored, and when a chance to work in hospice presented itself, she knew that was her meaningful opportunity.
“I learned in the ICU that you can keep people alive when it’s not necessarily the best thing for them. Hospice is an opportunity to address end-of-life in a compassionate way.”
Kenna has a full and busy life outside of nursing. Her son, Christopher, is a fighter pilot with the Indiana Air National Guard and was just recently deployed. He and his wife have four children between the ages of two and eight. Her other son, Bryan, is an IT professional and works in St. Louis.
Life for Kenna is full of love; and of course, much of that comes from her family. Her heart also overflows because of the rewards she says she gets from her job as a hospice nurse.
“When a family just looks at you and says thank you; when you get a hug you weren’t expecting. That makes my heart full."
Kenna didn’t grow up to become a world-famous archeologist. Instead, her son the fighter pilot, turned out to be the adventurer in the family.
(Watch Kenna in her daily work as a hospice nurse.)
But, Kenna gives her heart bravely to every hospice patient and family she serves at the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis, and most of them know, she is a real-life hospice hero.