William Kendrick, Suncoast Hospice South Care Center Manager

Hospice care and hospice care centers are essential components of offering full-life health care, yet these aspects are often misunderstood. In honor of National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, we sat down with William Kendrick, manager of the Suncoast Hospice South Care Center, a member of Empath Health, to discuss how these services benefit patients and their families.

Can you tell me a little bit about your role with Suncoast Hospice?

I manage the day-to-day operations of the Suncoast Hospice South Care Center. This includes making sure everyone is aware of how many patients and staff we have that day, addressing any concerns of the off-going shift, checking to make sure everyone has the supplies they need and dealing with anything else that may arise.

How did you come to be with Suncoast Hospice?

I started out working at a couple local hospitals. About 15 years ago I began to develop an interest in hospice care but needed more general care experience before making a shift. Once I reached that point, I joined Suncoast Hospice.

On a personal note, my grandmother used hospice in the home setting years ago. While they were on site I would ask as many questions as possible to learn more about the service.

What do you enjoy most about working for Suncoast Hospice?

It’s a great privilege to be able to work with our patients and families. When I get the opportunity, I do leader rounds. It’s a chance to talk with patients and family about their experience with our care and to make sure we are providing all we can.

What is a Suncoast Hospice Care Center?

I like to think of us as a waystation. Patients come to us when they need some help tweaking their care. They may be experiencing too much pain, too much anxiety or another symptom that is not controlled in the home setting. Patents can come here and we see if we can make changes to get them back home or make them as comfortable as possible if they’re in the final days before they pass. Families have the ability to come in and have all the time they need at the bedside.

Why is a facility like this important to have for our patients?

Caring for a critically ill loved one can be overwhelming for family. We can provide short-term respite care so family members who are caregivers have the opportunity to rest. This around-the-clock care is why we are here. It’s what we do.

The South Care Center is located inside Bayfront Hospital. What does this mean for our patient families?

In addition to serving south Pinellas County in general, this location is an advantage to patients who are coming from Bayfront Hospital. They don’t need to get in an ambulance to be moved to our center. Family members already know what to do and where to go. Our staff is also available to hospital patients when there is a need for palliative measures, such as with a compassionate extubation.

What can patients and families expect when they come to the South Care Center?

First and foremost, patients can ask for anything. We’ve had patients ask if they can pray with our staff. Whatever it is that will provide comfort to the physical, spiritual or emotional care of our patients we will do our best to make happen.

We also have private rooms which allows patients quiet time to rest. Their family can stay around the clock but can also leave to take a break knowing their loved one is still receiving care.

Before COVID-19 our family room was open as a gathering place for visitors. Families would be able to talk and support each other on their journeys. Sometimes talking to other people who are experiencing something similar can be very therapeutic. We are hoping this will open again when restrictions can be relaxed.

A big misconception out there is that hospice is a place you go to die. Can you offer some clarity regarding the role of the Care Center on the patient journey?

I would love for everyone to understand that hospice is not a place, it is a service. Our care centers are a halfway point for patients where we can give them a little more time and attention than a hospital stay while we figure out the next best step for symptom management.

A lot of people think they are coming to the Care Center for however long their last days are. That’s not always true. Some people do pass here. However, we want to make our patients comfortable enough to go back to the place they call home.

Learn more about hospice care provided by members of Empath Health by visiting EmpathHealth.org/hospice.