Our “Together as One” series spotlights nurses, physicians, pharmacists and others who positively impact the lives of hospice patients and their families every day. Through the dedicated and compassionate work of these inspiring professionals, patients receive the high-quality care and attentive consideration they deserve. Together with innovative and responsive hospice partners, they create the network of support so essential to hospice care. We invite you to meet the people behind the mission—and see what one can do.
Amanda Gutierrez, RN
What inspired you to become a nurse?
I wanted to be able to make a difference in someone’s life, no matter how small. Encouraging, uplifting, and empowering people is what makes me happy.
How did you come to work in hospice specifically?
A fellow nurse encouraged me to apply, and based on my respect for her and her compassion, I did so. Working in hospice has been a rewarding experience and I fell in love with the job.Being able to look after people who are terminally ill gives you the opportunity to really make a meaningful difference to their lives, which is really what nursing is all about. This is particularly true for the family and loved ones of the person you are caring for.
What has been your favorite or proudest moment as a nurse?
Every day I am proud to be a nurse. It’s the little things that make it worth it, like standing in line at Starbucks and seeing a nursing student crying and sitting down and offering encouragement for them to keep going. Or the room filled with 20 family members of someone passing and being able to answer all of their questions with confidence and compassion, and be able to provide support to not only the patient but their family as well.
In what ways (if any) is nursing different from what you expected when you first started?
I didn’t harbor any expectations when I started, I am a “go with the flow” kind of person, and accept each experience as a new adventure.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in hospice?
Stay organized and on top of the problems, but also be able to stand back and look at the whole picture. This world is a sea of negativity, and ships don’t sink in that sea, only when you allow the negativity into you do you start to sink.
There is absolutely no benefit in running yourself into the ground. So stay hydrated, eat, take breaks (even though you don’t want to) and get some sun. After all, we are just house plants with complicated emotions.
How do you keep from getting overwhelmed in your busy day-to-day?
Lots of laughter. When you are in a grumpy mood try to encourage someone, compliment something, look for something good. It’s hard to be cranky while you are uplifting someone else. And if all else fails, get up and get dressed, show up, and try your best—that is all you can do.
Have there been any patients or families that have been particularly memorable? How so?
Every patient leaves little memories with you. I had a heart failure patient who lived alone. One visit, I arrived and found my patient had fallen and had split her scalp open and was covered with blood.
After stopping the bleeding, I came up with a creative solution to aligning her scalp so I wouldn’t have to shave the side of her head. I used skin glue and French braided her scalp together. She was feeling embarrassed about all the blood and the aid was scared, so I decided to help her take a shower. Here we are both standing in the shower full scrubs and sneakers. Patient accidentally sprayed the whole front of my face and shirt and scrubs soaking me all the way to my socks. She hysterically started laughing and so did I.
She was able to get a shower, feel beautiful, and laugh. I walked around with squeaky shoes all day. She passed a few days later, and the family and patient were so happy they told that story over and over. It felt good to be able to help her out, and provide support to the family. Just because I am an RN, that does not mean I am above showers and bed baths. It was my honor to be there for my patient.
Has your work influenced how you think about death? In what ways?
I live my life more now that I am a hospice nurse, and don’t focus so much on materialistic things anymore. Hearing patient’s stories you don’t ever hear people say, “Man, I am so glad I got that brand new phone or laptop,” you hear stories about time spent with this family member or that one. So I make an effort to invest time with my family, husband, and children.