We want the best care and comfort for our loved ones who live with advanced illnesses.
For more than 40 years, Suncoast Hospice has provided compassionate care for our Pinellas County community. Our expert teams treat and comfort the whole well-being of patients – body, mind and spirit. If pain and symptoms become too difficult to manage at home, patients may be recommended for a short stay at one of our Care Centers.
The Care Center teams work to bring calmness and comfort for patients and families in our peaceful, homelike settings. Skilled medical staff immediately focuses on getting patients’ pain and symptoms under control. Aides, social work counselors, spiritual care staff and trained volunteers provide specialized care, support, companionship or comforting services (music, aromatherapy, Reiki, etc.). The goals are to help patients return home or relocate to another facility and avoid unnecessary trips to hospitals.
Rev. Lissa Bradford joined as a spiritual care coordinator at Suncoast Hospice in 2016. She first served on a home team and now at our north county Care Center. Her previous work includes 10 years in hospice chaplaincy in Maine and 25 years in television news production.
Our spiritual care coordinators offer all-encompassing support for people of any or no faith. Other local clergy may also be called upon for additional support. Rev. Bradford serves to be a comforting ear for patients and families to share their stories and feelings.
“We are a crisis care unit for general inpatient care. People who come here have had some time of trouble. My job is to meet them where they are and to hold them in a safe space where they can have the freedom to let out what they have been holding in for a long time,” she explained.
She helps identify patients’ beliefs and meet their needs.
“Normally, I wait a day to see patients because when they first arrive they are so tired and the medical team is working to get their symptoms and comfort level well managed. When I meet someone, I introduce myself as part of our team. Sometimes people are not religious but have a deep connection with nature, family or other higher power. They lead the conversations. I have no agenda except to see what emotional or spiritual support they need and how I can help in some way,” she shared.
She wishes to provide a peaceful experience during this difficult time in life.
“There’s no roadmap that tells people how to go through this. It’s all about normalizing death. Hospice is about living in peace and comfort. It’s about providing a safe space for people to experience the least drama and best possible quality of life for as long as they have life,” she explained.
Another part of her job is comforting families, staff and volunteers.
She added, “As spiritual care coordinators, we provide emotional and spiritual support to our doctors, aides, nurses and other team members who provide hands-on care, as well as our volunteers. I do a guided meditation that’s open to anybody at our Care Center. People can also write a prayer and put it in a box that only I open once a week to read and hold in my heart.”
Spiritual care is a second career and service for Rev. Bradford. She was born in Manhattan, lived around the country and led a longtime career as a television news producer. Her life experience with alcoholism and recovery steered her to become ordained in the Presbyterian Church.
“As with many second careers, I reached a pivot point in my journey. I took about 18 months in discernment talking to spiritual leaders, authors and people I trusted. It became clear for me to go into seminary. It was interesting being in seminary and working in TV at the time of 9/11. I had a brother who was working at the Pentagon at that time. I found a better understanding of empathy and being mindful of what crisis is for people,” she shared.
A Calling and Mission
Her chaplain residency was done at a hospital. Her mom was the first person she was present for at the end of her life.
“I was at my mother’s bedside when she died. Her passing was peaceful, quiet and gentle. It was the kind of death that everyone hopes for their loved one,” she expressed.
Coming to Florida to be with her family, work at Suncoast Hospice and serve as a guest pastor in the area have enriched her life.
“I’m thrilled to be here. I knew God had a plan for me. It’s a profound honor to be in people’s lives at times that are so precious, stressful and complicated. Every person needs to be loved, respected and honored. Our job is to be ambassadors of love, peace and no drama.”
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