Superheroes and Friends: Nurses Find Calling in Helping Others


superheroes wear scrubs

There are careers and then there are callings. For nurses at Homeland entering the profession is not based on earning potential or job benefits; it is founded on a passion to help others. From caring for residents at Homeland Center to home visits, nurses have a unique and extraordinary opportunity to change a patient’s life and be by their side to assist with their health care needs. Through their time together, nurses form friendships and unshakable bonds with patients and their families.

Two of Homeland’s outstanding and compassionate nurses include Hannah Miller and Cathy Whiteside, who serve hospice patients and their families. Their personal story’s of human connection through their work mirror those of Homeland’ impressive nursing staff.

Hannah Miller, BSN, RN has been a nurse with Homeland Hospice for more than four years. Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania. Prior to working for Homeland, Hannah was an intensive care nurse (ICU). Her time with patients was limited, and she found herself drawn to those she couldn’t save. When her patients were facing their final days, she wanted to be by their side.

“I realized I had a calling for end-of-life care,” Hannah says. “Becoming a hospice nurse is the most rewarding decision of my life.”

hannah miller, homeland hospice nurseFor hospice nurses like Hannah, every day starts with a routine of scheduled visits but plans easily change based on the health challenges of patients. Finding the balance between these two important priorities keeps each day different than the one before and allows nurses to be there for patients and their families when help is needed most.

“I get to know my patients through my work,” Hannah adds. “By knowing their interests and personalities, I strive to bring them peace at the end.”

In December, Hannah was caring for an elderly gentleman in his final days of life. Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, his extended family was unable to be by his side. Hannah helped arrange for his friends and family to sing Christmas carols outside of his window. With his limited mobility, he managed a small smile and whispered “thank you” to Hannah. The patient died that night.

“I’ll never forget that precious moment,” Hannah says. “I believe he changed my life far more than I could ever change his.”

After years of working in the field as a nurse, Cathy Whiteside, RN, BSN, recently moved in the role of assistant director of clinical services for Homeland Hospice. In this role, she supervises the nursing staff, helps with training and fills in when needed with patients. Through her nursing tenure, she has seen first-hand the demand for nurses increase to keep pace with the aging demographic of the region.

“The need for nurses has never been greater,” Cathy says. “This demand is an opportunity for people to enter a rewarding career.”

Like Hannah, Cathy fondly remembers the relationships she formed during her many years working with patients. As a native of Harrisburg, she often personally knew her patients from her church or neighborhood.

“My presence brought my patients an added level of comfort,” Cathy adds. “It was a privilege to care for them in their final days.”

The past year has challenged nurses everywhere as social distancing measures prevented many family members from comforting their dying loved ones. The Homeland team acted with added creativity and compassion to fill the void many patients faced.

“I am so proud of my fellow nurses at Homeland,” Hannah says. “They have done an amazing job caring for patients and one another.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

The Tea Light Candle

This article is reposted with permission. We thank Gabrielle Elise Jimenez, hospice nurse, end-of-life doula, and conscious dying educator, for sharing her experiences at blog._______________

hospice heart - the tea light

If you could relive just one moment in your life, what would it be? This is one of the questions from the Death Deck and was asked recently at a game night. My immediate reaction was to relive moments that brought me joy, of which there are many. But much to my surprise, my answer went to a place that caused me to react emotionally… and has hovered over me for days.

About twenty years ago, I drove my dad home the morning after Thanksgiving dinner. He asked if I could stay for lunch, but I told him I had other plans. On my way home I started to feel guilty, thinking I should have said, “yes”. I left a message for him that afternoon, offering to come the next day, but no response. The next morning, I left another message, but no response. That night I was called to the hospital where he died shortly after my arrival. He had been ill for several years and had taken a turn for the worse after I left him that day. He did not recover. About a week later, our family gathered in his room to clean out his things. I saw the light on his answering machine blinking. I pushed “play” and listened to the messages I had left, the ones he had never heard. And I cried.

So, as I was pondering the question on game night… I went past the beautiful memories I would like to relive again and instead went to the day my father asked me if I would stay for lunch. I said out loud, that if given that opportunity again, I would have said, “yes.”

This has weighed heavy on me for several years, but that night, during game night, it rose to the surface in a way I was not prepared for. As the words came out of my mouth, I felt relief. It didn’t matter that I said it in front of people I have never met before. It didn’t occur or matter to me, what they might think. I was not worried about judgement or ridicule, because I felt safe. And when I said those words, I felt free and I felt light, because the weight had finally left my shoulders.

I have spoken with many people who never had the chance to say goodbye, who never got to have last words, or resolve issues, or make amends. Death is final and many times it comes before we’ve had the chance to say the things.

I find comfort in ritual and ceremony, and it is in these moments where I offer the suggestion of the tea light candle. I encourage them to light a tea light candle, place it on a flat and safe surface, and as the flame burns, to say the things… all the things. When the flame goes out, the message has been received.

Today I lit a tea light candle, and I told my dad how truly sorry I was that I didn’t stay that day. Before the candle had even burned halfway through, it blew out. I giggled a little, wondering if he had been hanging around waiting for me to say something. But after a while, what I realized was… he wanted me to let that weight go… he too thought I had carried it far longer than I should have. This brought me comfort.

Whether you light a tea light candle, write a letter you never send, or whisper in the wind apologies, forgiveness, or goodbye… let it go. The weight of carrying things that happened long ago, that you cannot change, can be heavy and can distract you from moving forward. You are only human; we can all list a million things we wish we could have said or done differently. Let it go… Be kind to yourself, and find a way to stop carrying this weight. In my case, I lit a tea light candle… and the weight feels a whole lot less. xo