The mission and heart of the Accompanying the Dying™ program is to provide an empowering and emotionally safe training space for people to explore their calling and create a practice to serve the dying.
This program began as a course that developed after many requests over the years from people asking for assistance as they started the journey as non-nurse providers of doula-type services to the dying. Whenever someone wrote or called, my standard answer had always been "... get in contact with
your local hospice and begin training with them doing what we call 11th hour volunteering...". I still stand by that as a great option and I ask those with less experience who work with me to still do this, but they kept calling back for additional guidance.
The training they were receiving wasn't enough for many people; they wanted more. Many were looking to serve full-time instead of volunteering. They also didn't want to be a nurse, a chaplain, or a social worker. Then, I finally got it. People were hungry for the information needed to serve and I could help them do it! There were very few programs at that time, so I set out to develop a top notch training.
I decided in 2010 to put my ideas into a process that I believed would help others do this work well. I took the year to write and reflect on what I felt was important for a doula to know, based on my training and experience as a hospice nurse and private end of life doula. I began my Signature Course, "Accompanying the Dying: a Practical Guide and Awareness Training" in December 2010.
I have trained some amazing non-medical people over the years who have been professionals in a variety of other fields while wanting to add "end of life services" to their practice. In the last year, another phenomenon began to happen. I started hearing from nurses and others who were experienced in the end of life field and wanted this additional training as well. We do not get this depth of specific EOL training in nursing school, on the job in hospitals, or in doctor's offices. This is how my program came to be.
I am an End of Life Doula, Registered Nurse, and have worked in end of life care environments, in various capacities, in and outside of hospice since 2000. I have wonderful things in store for future doulas!
One of my earliest memories of death was when I was about 7 years old and someone close to our family died. I heard people in my family talking about the death and when I asked to go to the funeral, I was told "no", and a hush fell over the room. Years later, when I was 13 and living in Laredo, Texas, my grandmother said to me one day "C'mon, get your shoes and come with me." She didn't say where we were going or what we were about to do.
We walked down the rocky, unpaved streets of our neighborhood to her friend's home. Her friend was dying. When we walked into the room there were several other women, all sitting quietly with their veils on praying. There was a majestic reverence in the room that is hard to describe. I was profoundly affected by this experience and felt so honored that my grandmother included me in this vigil. Years later, before I became a nurse, I learned to care for the dying in a very personal way during the year of my grandmother's own dying (thanks to my aunts who showed me how to take tender loving care of her at home).
Fast forward to 1999. It became clear in my second semester of nursing school that my work would be with those of us who are dying. I was supported and encouraged by my professors to follow my heart and within three months of receiving my RN license in 2000, I was training at a local hospice.
Throughout the last several years I have worked in oncology, long term acute care, and skilled nursing facilities, but mostly within hospice in various roles. In each setting, what became overwhelmingly clear to me was that there was so much needless suffering going on and that I wanted to be part of changing that. During this time, two additional family members died from lengthy illnesses that were very precious to me.
After the sudden, rapid decline and death of my mother from cholangiocarcinoma on June 15, 2005, I decided to start my private practice as a doula to the dying and their families. As I went to various places to let people know I was available for this, people had so many questions on how to deal with life-limiting illness in general. My talks then began to be about pre-hospice palliative care.
One thing led to another and I found myself consulting with families regarding palliative issues and created Quality of Life Care, LLC (QLC). Being a nurse is the way that I have been able to serve the dying and I feel very blessed and fortunate to have been able to do so. We each have our unique gifts and special callings. You too will find your own way to reach the dying, express your passion, and serve. If you would like help getting there, I'd love to to be there for you.
Peace to you.