According to a 2019 Gallup poll, nurses have once again been named “the most trusted profession” in the United States. That’s the 18th year in a row now that Americans have cited nurses for their “honesty” and “ethical standards.”

At Capital Caring Health (CCH), we couldn’t agree more. Our nurses are compassionate, kind, patient, good listeners, and knowledgeable…exactly the kind of people you’d want to take care of you or a loved one during a serious, life-limiting illness.

So while CCH officially observes National Nurses Month throughout May, our nurses are celebrated each and every day for their dedication to patients and families. A nurse may take on a variety of responsibilities at CCH, but their core focus is always on making sure that patients, families, and caregivers have the best care and quality of life possible.

That’s a major reason why Ana Smith, RN, became a nurse in the first place. Her journey began in Colorado where, as a young military wife, she first became interested in hospice care. After relocating to Virginia, Ana joined CCH as a hospice home health aide.

Yet a desire for a stronger role in patient care and for more challenges led Ana to nursing school. After graduation, Ana worked as an ICU/ER nurse and an HIV case manager, but decided to return to the hospice setting. Now in her 10th year at CCH, Ana’s experience demonstrates the many different roles a hospice nurse can fulfill: bedside nurse; clinical supervisor; case manager; liaison between hospital, family and hospice; and care navigation and triage.

“A hospice nurse helps in so many different ways, from managing patient symptoms to training families on how to care for a loved one to coordinating care. We also help patients and families know what to expect at the end of life, providing all the support they need. For me, that means having a direct responsibility in how patients and families are cared for and making sure they feel heard and supported each step of the way.”

That variety and flexibility are part of the appeal of working in hospice, says Ana, now a Triage Coordinator at the CCH Care Navigation Center. She adds, “The triage role allows me to work from home and field calls Thursday through Sunday. That allows me more time to care for my 10-year-old granddaughter while continuing to do the work I love.”

With COVID-19, hospice nurses are among those facing new demands–including a surge in the number of patients referred to hospice. While most patients are cared for at home, care may also be provided in at one of the five CCH general inpatient units at area hospitals.

Successfully dealing with the major challenges of the pandemic recently resulted in Ana and a colleague being named “Heroes of the Hospice” by the Care Navigation Team.  In her role at the Care Navigation Center, Ana helps to keep the operation running over the weekend. She arranges clinical visits, takes triage calls, and troubleshoots.

As a Triage Coordinator, Ana helps handle all calls that come in 24/7 from patients and families. They may be seeking a clinical visit for an urgent problem. Or, as in a recent example, it could be someone seeking reassurance like the mom who called at 1 a.m. because she wanted to talk to someone about medications for her terminally ill son.

Working for the Care Navigation Center can be intense, but rewarding. “Helping someone manage their symptoms and find a positive aspect at the end-of-life is what I’ve always wanted to be part of,” Ana concludes.

Ana recently attended a conference in Hawaii and is pictured above surrounded a flock of parrots.