The Heart of Nursing: Hospice Nurse Braves Blizzard for Dying Patient - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

The Heart of Nursing: Hospice Nurse Braves Blizzard for Dying Patient

In the middle of the Delaware Valley’s record-breaking blizzard of 2010, a man was dying. He might have died alone had it not been for Linda Gosser, RN, MSN, clinical director of Crozer-Keystone Hospice. Gosser was determined to visit this patient because she knew that he was not doing well and had been requiring hospice visits every day.

Linda Gosser, RN,
MSN
 

So on this mid-February morning, while municipal officials were closing highways and mass transit services were shutting down, Gosser got behind the wheel of her husband’s four-wheel drive truck to make the 10-mile trip to visit the patient. When she arrived at the assisted living facility around 8:45 a.m., she discovered that the parking lot had not been plowed. Undeterred, she plunged through the snow, parked the truck and trudged to the building.

When she entered the patient’s room, she found that he was actively dying. “I knew it was just a matter of time,” she says.

After gently providing the necessary morning care, Gosser made the decision to stay with him until he died, despite the storm raging outside. She knew that he was homeless and alone except for his sister, who lived in New York City. “I’m sure that his sister would have come if she could, but she may not have had the means to make the trip,” says Gosser. “She was grateful that I stayed with him until he died later that morning, and she was comforted when I was able to tell her that he died peacefully.  Knowing what happened during his last moments was very important to her.

“I knew that he had been raised in the Catholic church, so I held his hand and said some prayers. We believe that our patients can still hear us at the end, and I hope he found this comforting,” says Gosser, a hospice nurse for 16 years. “Many times when the family is present, we suggest that they tell the patient that it’s okay to go. So I tried to take the place of his sister and said, ‘It’s okay to go now. Your sister knows and she’ll be fine.’

“This isn’t anything that my staff hasn’t done,” Gosser emphasizes. “I learn from them all the time because they do this every day. I just had the opportunity to step in and help that day, and it was truly a privilege.”

Gosser praised the DCMH Social Work Department staff for their many hours of hard work in making provisions for suitable living arrangements and hospice care for the patient, who had no insurance. “When he came to this country, he had a job as a caretaker’s assistant. But then he was no longer needed, which left him with no income and no insurance,” explains Gosser. “It was a challenge for our social workers to make the necessary arrangements for him, but they never gave up. They were instrumental in working with Jane Hanahan (director of CKHS Home Care and Hospice) to help him. My hat is off to them.”

A 28-year Crozer-Keystone veteran, Gosser finds hospice care extremely rewarding. “You feel as though you’re really making a difference - not just for the patient, but for the family,” she says. “We have an interdisciplinary team that includes hospice nurses, pastoral counselors, social workers, home health aides, therapists and volunteers all working together to make sure that the person’s quality of life is the best it can be, while helping the family during a very difficult time.”