Hospice Workers: You Keep Getting Better

This year was the first time that I actually got the chance to participate in the Hospice Action Network’s Capitol Hill Day, and it truly changed the way that I look at my job.

In my three years at NHPCO I have met some of the most compassionate people I know. Hospice workers are, after all, caretakers by nature. They are comforters and guardians of the dying: a population that most of the healthcare industry does not cater to, but instead attempts to rescue. They provide dignity and grace at the end of life: a time that most of us associate with our own grief and loss. They are protectors of a level of quality care that many will experience for only several precious months. Knowing all of this, I have not been surprised to find that hospice workers are also, by nature, advocates. They are guards of an industry that I truly believe in and work to support. And, on April 6, 2011, I was able to share in their passion as they made their way to the United States Capitol to speak on behalf of the hospice community as a part of the Hospice Action Network’s Hill Day.

In the past I have worked with NHPCO’s Council of States, some of our larger committees, and a mishmash of groups from hospice professionals in correctional facilities to those reaching out to homeless veterans. Needless to say, my career at NHPCO has provided me the chance to meet a lot of different people with different points of view. Hill Day was new: this was a group of people with one voice and one message. We were a single unit, shivering in the cold at the Pep Rally on the Capitol Grounds, trying to get through security in the Congressional Visitors Center and comparing maps and meeting schedules.

The real difference for me was that my work with so many different groups at NHPCO made sense to me that day. I recognized some of our We Honor Veterans champions and met, in person, with people that I have been emailing forever. I caught up with Regulatory Committee member Renee Hahn, and Council of States representative Julie Pinkerton, both from Kansas. I talked to them about what is important: the HELP Hospice Act and how great life in the Midwest can be. I made an important connection with them – our points of view are different, but our worldview is the same.

On Hill Day I was surrounded by passionate, intelligent and well-informed professionals who were familiar to me, but who I was seeing for the first time in a new light. These were not just conference attendees and email distribution lists. They were not records in a database or names that I carry around on tent cards. Hill Day for me was about closing the loop: hospice workers are compassionate, they are caretakers, they are proactive, they are advocates, they are professionals, but to me they are much more. They are colleagues, friends and partners of mine.