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.
KCinnamon Dowling, RN
What inspired you to become a nurse?
I was the sole caregiver when my mother was battling cancer. I had no idea what I was doing and felt so lost and out of control. When the curative approach had been exhausted and palliative was the right path, I remember the relief that washed over me that I no longer had to figure everything out by myself anymore, I had help. That was a wonderful feeling when I was going through such a difficult time. This life-changing event inspired me to go back to school and learn as much as I possibly could so that I could be that resource for others going through that experience. I believe that nurses are able to help add a human aspect to medicine. We treat people, not diseases.
How did you come to work in hospice specifically?
I wanted to be the person who was able to educate families and patients on what was expected, and how to help preserve quality of life while they are going through this journey.
What has been your favorite or proudest moment as a nurse?
When loved ones are able to tell me that they were able to take care of the patient where they are the most comfortable because of the support and training they received through our organization, that is such a proud moment for me. Whether patients are in homes or facilities, we are able to add an extra layer of support to help families feel that their loved one has the greatest level of care. I work very closely with facility staff along with our social worker, spiritual care, doctors, and the entire team. Working together helps us to give the patients the care that any of us would be proud to have for our own families.
In what ways (if any) is nursing different from what you expected when you first started?
I went into nursing with the sole intent of working in home hospice. I knew that this was my calling. I had no idea the bonds and relationships that would develop though: when I have had patients and families that have been in my care for years, or at times those patients or families that I have had an instant connection with. It’s the human aspect that makes my job worth doing.
Do you have any advice for someone considering a career in hospice?
Have a really firm understanding of all disease processes. It is our responsibility to be the experts on whatever disease the patient has so that the families can feel empowered and educated to care for them at home or in a facility. We want to put these families at ease and I find that educating them really helps.
How do you keep from getting overwhelmed in your busy day-to-day?
Work/life balance. It is so important that you fill yourself up so that you can then give of yourself. Every Sunday I do my nails, I journal, and I take vacations away so that I can come back to work feeling refreshed and ready to give fully of myself to my patients and families.
Have there been any patients or families that have been particularly memorable? How so?
I believe that all of my patients have been memorable in their own ways. Sometimes they are able to teach me more than I could ever teach them.
Has your work influenced how you think about death? In what ways?
I believe that it is imperative to have conversations about what your wishes are long before they are needed. No one wants to have to make decisions for someone else. The doubt that plagues someone as they are wondering if this is what Mom would have really wanted can cause so much pain. I think that this is a journey that we will all someday have to go though, and like any journey it is best to have experienced and trained professionals. We bring a team of doctors, nurses, social work and spiritual care to help guide the family through this time and help preserve dignity and quality of life.