It’s National Nurses Week and we salute all of our wonderful nurses providing compassionate care, support and comfort to our community. This year’s theme, Nursing: the Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit, reminds us that it’s important for healthcare workers to take charge of their own health and wellness so they can provide excellent care to others.
Frances Wallace, a Suncoast Hospice evening and weekend team staff RN, has a special love and connection to hospice care. As a single mother, Wallace went back to school and became a nurse late in life. Shortly after joining us she suffered an unexpected tragedy. A few years off and lots of support from her coworkers and the community helped her family get through and find healing.
In this Q&A, learn how she works with several of our care teams, brings calmness and relief to our hospice patients and families and has been personally touched by hospice.
Q&A: Frances Wallace, RN
1. What’s your background?
I’m a fifth-generation Floridian from Clearwater. I was a single mom with two sons and had to become the “bread winner.” I became a nurse through Morton Plant Hospital and did two years of rotation.
I joined Suncoast Hospice in 2008. Seven years ago, my oldest son died suddenly. Your life changes, it’s like hitting a brick wall. Our hospice was there for me at the worst time in my life. Our children’s program was there for my youngest son and my support came from my team and our community partners. My team gathered around and helped me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for a lot of support and prayers. I’ve been back here for almost two years. Now I have even more compassion for our patients and families. I can relate to other mothers who are losing their kids.
2. Why did you choose this field?
I did a rotation with a hospice nurse and knew that’s what I wanted to be. It comes naturally to me. My heart is with hospice. I like helping people die the way they want to die and comfortably. I love being a hospice nurse.
3. What qualities should a hospice nurse possess?
First is compassion. Second is non-judgmental. You shouldn’t judge people, no matter their environment, social status or other differences. This is a tender time in their lives and you need to meet them where they are. You must do holistic nursing – the whole person, from head-to-toe and from inside-to-outside.
4. What care and support do you provide to patients and families?
As an evening and weekend nurse, I do spot visits with our hospice patients who have unexpected medical emergencies, such as pain. It’s kind of like a firefighter, I go and put out the fires. We’re here to support patients at any hour. I hope to achieve progress. I like to come in and help and when I leave the whole household feels more comfortable, calm and in a better place.
In someone’s last few days or hours, everything comes back to the basics. I’ve been with one patient for three months. I can just hold his hand with his wife by his side and he’ll smile. I saw another recent patient who was imminent and I bent down and kissed her. I felt compassion for her. She died within the hour and it was a wonderful end-of-life experience. The family was so appreciative of our care.
5. When’s a good time to access hospice?
Enrolling in hospice earlier is beneficial. It’s a time for people to have support and get to know our staff. When patients decline, they’ll get more vulnerable and lose independence, but they’ll already be comfortable with us so we can help them. A lot of people just need someone to listen and they feel so much better when they let it go.
6. How do you work with other teams?
I do visits with our Suncoast PACE participants and Empath Home Health patients who need additional health support at home. I work with our crisis care and supplemental staffing teams. Our Suncoast Hospice Care Centers are a great support to our teams helping us with supplies and transfers of patients. Our organization works well together. I like working side-by-side with everyone.
7. What does Suncoast Hospice mean to you?
My father passed away at our mid-Pinellas Care Center so my heart is there. Ruth Ann was an awesome hospice nurse with my dad. When I first see my patients and families, I tell them that most of our staff has been impacted in one way or another by this hospice and we love giving back. I receive a blessing that my patients give me. They help me with my healing, medical field and personal life.
8. What’s your advice for new hires?
I shadow most new hires on my team. I encourage them to listen a lot, watch, pay attention and learn. This type of nursing will affect you emotionally and mentally. That’s a huge part of working for hospice. You need to keep your emotional and mental state healthy and a priority.
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