What My Hospice means is different to each individual and family we serve. For My Hospice Ambassadors, like Emily Baehr, it means acting as a leader in their state to support Medicare’s first coordinated care model and protect the Medicare Hospice Benefit.

My Hospice Ambassadors are hospice and palliative care professionals with an interest in advocacy who work with NHPCO to facilitate on-going outreach and relationship development with federal policymakers.

Here Ambassador Emily Baehr answers what My Hospice means to her:

Tell us a little bit about your role.

My current title is Director of Hospice Services.  I came to work for St. Barnabas Hospice in February 2017 and began my career as a RN Case Manager. Our hospice program maintains an average daily census of approximately 30 patients.  While we are relatively small, we are always growing.  Working to expand our service area and managing the daily operations of our Interdisciplinary Team are my primary responsibilities, but I wear many hats.  I often still manage referrals and act as a liaison between patients and their families and caregivers, as well as outside providers. 

When I transitioned from RN Case Manager to Director of Hospice Services about 18 months ago, I found myself spending much of my time in the office.  However, I still provide care at the bedside, work on quality initiatives and education and hit the marketing and recruitment trail sometimes too.

How did you first get involved with hospice? Tell us a little bit about your role.

Prior to hospice, I worked as a critical care nurse in Pittsburgh’s only Level One Trauma and Burn center.  While our goals of care were often to restore health and wellness and return patients to their families, their jobs, their lives, we also cared for many patients whose injuries were not survivable.  In those circumstances as a provider, your priorities and goals shift.  How can we support this patient and their family?  How can we honor this patient’s wishes at the end of life?  What is a dignified death?  How can we ensure that these days or hours are spent in comfort?  Those experiences largely prepared me for my hospice journey and helped to shape my professional practice.

What do you like best about your job?

I love the team that I work with – they are truly incredible at what they do and are dedicated to our patients and their families, but the best part of my job is the patients.  I think that I unfairly glean more from those relationships than I can ever give in return.  I’ve gained some incredible insights from my time at the bedside.  I am so often awestruck by the stories of their lives and the events that they’ve witnessed over the past 80 or 100 years. Each patient comes to us with a unique perspective on living and dying that was shaped through those experiences and with that comes wisdom when we take the time to listen.

What motivates your advocacy and why do you think others should get involved?

My advocacy is rooted in my belief that quality health care should be easily accessible and affordable to all.  Unfortunately, today, the climate of healthcare has largely shifted from “first do no harm” to someone’s bottom line. Decisions about what is best for the patient are now made not by the patient in partnership with their health care provider but by computer algorithms and business executives who in many instances don’t understand the gravity of living with a complicated health condition and the associated burdens of out-of-pocket expenses, the frustration of insurance denials or the knowledge that care and treatments are available but not accessible. 

I think it is of the utmost importance that others get involved in advocacy.  Too often people acknowledge a problem and think about solutions but never take action because they are waiting for someone else to make the change or because they underestimate the significance of their voice and the power that our voices can carry together.

What does My Hospice mean to you?

Personally, My Hospice, means ‘Hope.’