The rapid rise of recent nursing school graduates to care management, collaborative team leadership, and highly competent care giving within the specialty of hospice inspires admiration and respect.The August day that registered nurse and Four Seasons Compassion for Life intern Alyse Cannaday opened the eagerly anticipated employment offer letter is one she’ll always remember. One year later, the recent college graduate, of Horseshoe, is a full time case manager in Transylvania County caring for patients with serious, life-limiting illness.
“As the nurse leader for my patients, I’m completely managing their care,” she says.
Cannady’s rapid rise from graduation day to respected collaborative team leader, together with fellow interns Stacie Raasch, R.N., and Ryan Frederick, R.N., inspires admiration and respect. Today, she and her fellow interns meet the standard of highly competent care.
“The doctor and I manage the overall picture and address the medical needs, but we have a whole team that’s specialized in their respective areas of expertise who work together to treat the patient as a whole.”
Her professional growth trajectory was made possible by the recent commitment of Four Seasons Compassion For Life to develop and implement the innovative “Hospice Nurse Internship Program,” together with Delta Care Rx, a nationally known hospice pharmaceutical provider.
“We remain excited about the results made possible by Delta Care’s sponsorship,” says Chris Comeaux, CEO of Four Seasons. “We know it’s critical that nurses, like pharmacists, obtain training specific to the needs of patients who are living with the life-limiting affects of serious or debilitating illness.”
The resulting program, implemented over the course of the past 18 months, introduced Cannaday and the other nurse graduates to the day-to-day operations of Four Seasons’ nationally recognized hospice care and nurse leadership case management, much in the way Delta Care Rx offers on and off-campus trainings to pharmacists.
“Nurses and pharmacists work closely from day to day to manage the unique needs of hospice patients,” says Drew Mihalyo, president and chief operating officer at Delta Care Rx. “The delivery of care can be quite different from that of other patient settings.”
“Hospice and palliative care requires a whole different kind of nursing,” she says, describing the Four Seasons approach as holistic, treating the whole person, in a way that’s different from hospital or acute care settings, she explains.
“When treating patients with progressive, life-limiting illness, the focus is on comfort, with the patient and family guiding the experience,” she says.
An aging health care work force underscores the need to attract young nurses into specialties earlier in their careers, according to Renee Barnwell, a registered nurse and Four Seasons director of professional development.
“We’ve selected new nurses who, like Cannaday and the others of her cohort, demonstrate a passion for the specialized care needed during life-limiting illness, and who foresee a career in the profession in the future,” she says.
Exceptional nursing skills and the ability to communicate effectively are needed going into the program, says Barnwell. Then, through the internship process, the young nurses receive the professional mentorship, education, and support needed to ensure a high level of competency in delivering quality care to patients and families.
“We have every hope that our graduates are going to be leaders in the field,” says Barnwell.
The two-phase internship combines group classroom education with practical experience. Participants were given opportunity to shadow all disciplines during the first phase—which lasted 12 weeks—to better understand roles. The second phase includes mentor support throughout the first year of professional practice as a care manager.
“As a result of this internship, young nurse leaders are able to effectively lead inter-professional collaborative teams,” Cannaday says. “The team members work together to treat the patient as a whole.”
For Cannaday, who “always wanted to work in hospice,” the internship was a “fantastic opportunity” she says. She recommends the experience to others who may be interested in palliative and hospice care, especially those who prefer a collaborative approach.
“The vitality, energy, and passion of new graduates like Cannaday, infuses new life into the organization,” says Barnwell.
For more information about the “Hospice Nurse Internship Program,” contact Four Seasons Compassion for Life, www.fourseasonscfl.org.
About Four Seasons Compassion for Life
Four Seasons Compassion for Life is a community supported 501c3 non-profit organization with a dedicated team of health care professionals, social workers, spiritual care professionals, donors and volunteers deeply committed to its mission of “Co-Creating the Care Experience.” Nationally known for its leadership in innovative, quality hospice and palliative care services, and serving western North Carolina, the agency is a former Circle of Life award recipient from the American Medical Association.
About Delta Care Rx
Delta Care Rx transforms and improves the hospice pharmacy industry through business transparency, innovation, extreme customer service, and the maintenance of vital community-pharmacy relationships. As a pharmacist-owned, privately held provider, Delta Care Rx sets the industry benchmark for pharmacy benefit management, on-demand pharmacist services, and hospice tailored electronic prescribing.
Sherri L. McLendon, M.A., firstname.lastname@example.org, is a former WNC Woman columnist, nationally published journalist, and independent public relations consultant whose clients include benchmark-setting, community based health and home care providers.