Very recently retired from the Hospice of the Western Reserve, Ramune Totoraitis, RN, BSN, reflects on her nursing practice that spans more than half a century. She describes the essential aspects of her role as a hospice and palliative care nurse, and shares insights from her years of caring for patients at the end of their lives.
Working as a Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse was the culmination of a long and varied nursing career. As a new grad, I started my career as a nurse on a Med/Surg floor in a large medical center. From there I had the opportunity to work in the Emergency Room and Out- Patient Surgery. After that, I was a clinical research assistant for the Anesthesia Department. For the last 25 years I have practiced as a hospice nurse.
This past November, I retired after 53 years of nursing. I feel truly blessed to have chosen nursing as my profession. Each area of nursing that I have worked in has taught me so much and has given me the chance to help people in need. Nursing is not new to my family either. My mother was a labor and delivery nurse, and my daughter is currently studying to be a Nurse Anesthetist. Her area of practice was the MICU.
Working as a Hospice nurse was challenging. I took care of patients from all ages, from infants to elderly adults. The end goal is to provide comfort care, and with that comes showing dignity, respect, and compassion to our patients. I felt most challenged working with patients who were in severe pain or having difficulty breathing. At those times, presence and medication were very important. A major aspect of our job is just listening to patients - listening to stories about how scared they are to leave their loved ones behind, or guilt and regret with which they haven‘t come to terms. There are patients that have no one, and we become their family. We want them to feel safe and important.
It has been an honor to be able to take care of patients in their last hours of life. As a hospice nurse I saw daily that death spares no one, no matter who you are or what you have. Hospice has helped me to prioritize my own life goals. Every day is important. Hopefully I have made a difference in my patients‘ lives also.