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VITAS (pronounced VEE-tahss) Innovative Hospice Care®, a pioneer and leader in the hospice movement since 1978, is the nation's largest provider of end-of-life care for adult and pediatric patients with life-limiting illnesses.
100 South Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1300
Miami, FL 33131
Check out VITAS opportunities on VolunteerMatch.
By Cristopher Bautista, Communications & Social Media Intern
Lisa Nordin is not afraid of death. For the past several years she has volunteered for VITAS, a hospice organization that focuses on end-of-life care for patients with terminal illnesses.
"It didn't frighten me," says Lisa, reflecting back on her decision to volunteer for VITAS. "I was always a nurse in my soul."
Lisa is a former nurse who has experience in pediatric, medical-surgical and orthopedic hospital settings. When she got married and started a family, she decided to become a stay-at-home mother in order to focus on raising her three boys.
When Lisa's sons became teenagers and started spending more time out of the house, she found she had more time on her hands. A natural introvert, she realized that she had a habit of isolating herself, which was quickly becoming unhealthy.
"Being alone wasn't helping me. It was hurting me," she says.
Lisa read several books on volunteers working with hospice patients, and given her background as a nurse, she decided to try volunteering for hospices herself.
In her volunteer work with VITAS, Lisa is assigned one patient whom she visits regularly, either every other week or every three to four weeks, depending on where the patient is located. She provides socialization services for patients, talking to them and spending time with them. Some patients she has worked with have passed away. Other patients were able to move on from hospice care.
Lisa recalls one male hospice patient she visited. He was in his 80s at the time, and while other patients' rooms were decorated with pictures, cards, and flowers, his room was noticeably barren. The only decoration in the room was one picture of his family. Lisa visited him regularly, and was his only visitor.
"I had to remind him of my name, but he always seemed to recognize me," she says.
He had been divorced once, lived a lonely life and suffered from alcoholism. He would spend their time together talking about his father and his childhood.
The patient passed away, but this experience of loss is common in Lisa's work. She visited one patient for several years before she passed away.
To process her feelings about death, Lisa writes about her experiences. She sees writing as cathartic for both herself and her readers who have lost loved ones. "For me, to process while writing about a patient who has passed definitely helps me," she says.
Although working with hospice patients is sometimes emotionally draining, volunteering for hospices is a necessary service, giving a human touch to those experiencing their last days. Federal law requires that volunteers provide at least 5% of patient care in hospices.
Across America, 468,000 volunteers work in hospice care and are faced with death on a regular basis. For volunteers like Lisa, the benefits of this experience are appreciating life and, more importantly, coming to terms with one's mortality.
"I go into volunteering to provide comfort and service," she says. And for Lisa, her volunteering provides this comfort both for the patients she works with and for herself.