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Care Throughout the Night

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From a very young age Verna McGruder, RN knew she wanted to be a nurse. Even as a seven year old she remembers writing in her journal, “I’m going to be a nurse!”

Growing up in an environment filled with uncertainties, Verna looked up to her aunt who was a licensed practical nurse and saw her as an inspiration. Thirty-three years later, the Benton Harbor resident is now an on-call, after hours nurse at Caring Circle of Spectrum Health Lakeland. Caring Circle provides 24/7 hospice care and Verna makes sure that from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. anyone who needs care will receive it.

While she can’t imagine working anywhere else, there was a time Verna didn’t fully understand what hospice care was.

Being present with families and individuals in hospice care during such a critical time is a privilege. I help educate and provide comfort to those in hospice care along with their loved ones, and give them the attention and care needed in that moment—it is truly a blessing.

Over five years ago, Verna was working in a local nursing home alongside hospice team members from Caring Circle who provided specialized care. Verna recalls consulting with a hospice nurse on one of her patients who wasn’t eating. The nurse gently explained, “This person is not dying because he isn’t eating, they’re not eating because they’re dying.” That one phrase completely changed how Verna viewed hospice care.

Verna worked her way through a career in nursing, beginning as a certified nurse assistant, then becoming a licensed practical nurse, a registered nurse, and now has a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “Never in a million years did I think I would be a hospice nurse,” said Verna. “I have held a number of different roles in nursing homes and since coming to Caring Circle I realized hospice was my true passion.”

Verna started at Caring Circle part-time and immediately fell in love with the work. Even while the COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges to the way we provide care, Verna is grateful to do what she does as a hospice nurse and wouldn’t want to do anything else. “I just love what I do,” said Verna.

A family in crisis

In the early hours of the morning, Verna got a call that someone on hospice care was in a lot of pain and that the medical interventions tried so far hadn’t provided relief. Verna arrived, assessed the situation, and decided to give the patient comfort with a technique she had learned in her many years in the nursing field.

Verna was able to help fix the issue that was causing the pain and the discomfort and tension in the room immediately lifted. The daughter ran to Verna, hugged her tight, and started crying and thanking her for what she had just done. Verna finished her visit and right before she got in the car, the daughter’s husband ran out and hugged and thanked her for providing so much relief, not only for his wife’s mother, but also for his distraught wife who took the weight of the pain on herself.

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