Hospice nurses act much like a bridge. They can gently help patients and families move from a place of fear and pain to a place of acceptance and peace.
“It’s about the care, love and attention for those who are going through this crisis and advocating for them, even though it’s hard sometimes. I treat them with understanding of what they’re going through. The end result is to make sure these patients and their loved ones are happy,” shared Suncoast Hospice Staff Nurse Rhoni Fletcher.
In honor of National Nurses Week: Inspire, Innovate, Influence May 6 to 12, Fletcher shares her inspiration to become a nurse, her path to Suncoast Hospice and her team’s compassionate care and advocacy for patients and families.
A Calling to Care
Fletcher grew up in Jamaica and yearned to become a nurse, just like her aunt.
“My greatest influence in my life was my aunt. She said I’d be a good nurse but I was too rough. She called me a tomboy. Over the years that got polished,” Fletcher reflected.
After moving here in 1992, Fletcher got married, had two sons and followed her dream to go into nursing. She first worked as a CNA (certified nursing assistant) in nursing homes, then became an LPN (licensed practical nurse) and worked on a team at St. Anthony’s Hospital and later became an RN (registered nurse) and worked on the oncology floor at St. Anthony’s. Her family gave lots of love and encouragement along the way.
She shared, “I got my RN in 2004. My husband was a great influence for me to go back to school. He has been my spiritual strength and support, always by my side for 20 years. When I graduated, my eldest son picked me up in the air and said, ‘Mom you did it.’ I love my boys, my hard working husband and my lovely granddaughter.”
On her first day in oncology, she cried. But her seven years there prepared her for her next chapter at Suncoast Hospice. Some St. Anthony’s social workers and a Suncoast Hospice nurse encouraged her to apply and she has been here for more than 11 years. She cares for our patients and families in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“I love my job. I’m doing the work that God has called me to do,” she said.
Fletcher and her team are dedicated to providing caring support for each patient and family.
“It has been a sweet experience working with the staff. We’ve had our ups and downs but we work together to keep things going. At Suncoast Hospice, there’s a passion to provide love, attention and care. I admire our volunteer services and social workers for the awesome work they do, being there to support patients and hard times that the families are going through. When I walk into rooms I can tell our aides have been there because the patients are so nice and clean,” she explained.
Empathy, Love and Peace
Above all, Fletcher strives to bring a comforting presence for patients’ last moments.
She recalled one daughter who had cared for her mom for three years and it became too much for her so she brought her to a nursing home for care. The day the mom was dying, the daughter had left for Texas and Fletcher called to tell her what was happening with her mom. Then she visited the mom at the bedside.
“I needed soft music in her (the mom’s) room. I pulled the blinds down. I told her that her daughter was not going to make it to see her and she said it was okay. She had a beautiful smile on her face and said thank you.”
Another time she visited a patient who had no relatives around.
She shared, “It’s important to be by patients’ sides who have no loved ones there. I had one patient who had no one. I told him, ‘I’m here for you and you can let go. I’m not going to leave you.’ I stood by his side and held his hand until he took his last breath. Our patients need TLC (tender-loving care). It may just be their last moment. We need to be an advocate and show that love.”
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