What matters most to you? That’s what our Suncoast Hospice physicians and teams aim to get to the heart of to best support everyone in our care.
Catherine Covington, DO started young in the medical field and has worked in hospice care for many years. This Doctor’s Day, she reflects on her meaningful work at the Suncoast Hospice Care Centers and her special passion for talking with patients and families to define what brings satisfaction in their lives.
What’s your background?
I started out in high school as a nurse’s aide. Then I became an X-ray tech, ran a business and went to med school. I’ve been in hospice a long time. I joined Suncoast Hospice in 2012.
How do you help people come to peace in hospice?
Hospice can be such a frightening word. Many times people think it means that nothing else can be done and they’re going to die immediately. What I ask individuals at any age in life is, “What’s the most important thing to you? If you could have anything, what would you do and what would that look and feel like?” Living is a choice. It’s sad to see when people die not taking that opportunity to figure out and articulate what joy, peace and love was for them.
How do you approach your quality-of-life conversations with patients and families?
Oftentimes, people are in some type of crisis at our care centers. We have these discussions in order to help them convey their goals of care. These are tough conversations. It’s my most favorite thing to do in the world. I feel it’s such an honor to be invited in their life at such a vulnerable time.
Sometimes, our patients feel like they need to continue to be strong for others and keep up the fight. I’ll sit on their beds, be really present and let them be who they are and tell me what they really feel or want. And I’ll let the loved ones really say what they need to say. Many times, I can see the relief in their faces or body language. I can feel it in the room.
Can you share a story of a patient/family you helped?
One amazing story I have is of a patient and her loving husband. She had uterine cancer for many years. She was getting to a point in which she was too weak and she came in to one of our care centers for pain management. She became unresponsive. Her husband said he had some things he hadn’t said to her. I asked him, “What’s most important to her?” and he replied, “Her homemade iced tea and kitty cat, Candy.”
I had fostered some kittens and brought one in to her room and laid it on her chest. She kissed it and said to her husband, “You are the love of my life.” She passed away shortly afterwards. That’s the importance of being able to say what you want to say before you don’t have the opportunity.
He asked me to speak at her memorial service and I did. That was so incredible. He adopted that kitten and named her, Cookie, and then took both kitties on a trip. He felt like he had the most amazing trip ever because he felt like his wife was with him.
How do you and your teams care for the whole person?
Many times patients come in with physical symptoms but a disease encompasses spiritual distress, too. Each team member picks up on the individual aspects of what’s causing their distress and then we come up with a plan for what their goals are. It benefits people to have these types of conversations when they’re healthy.
What’s it like working with your teams and how do you support them?
I work with some amazing individuals. The aides are wonderful and I put them way up high. I respect them so much. I believe our nursing staff comes here because they have a calling and passion for it. We do things together; they’re like family.
We need to continue renewing their spirits in our thoughts and actions by letting them know who they are and what they do is appreciated. We need to let them share their knowledge and learn from each other. I learn every minute of every day. That’s how we all grow.
What education have you done in the community?
I like to be part of the education of living well. I used to give community talks at churches, women’s groups and nursing homes in St. Louis. It was really beneficial.
I’ve also done an advance care planning lecture in partnership with our Empath Choices for Care organization. I’m very interested in that. I think people need to have these discussions and ask questions about their diseases. When we can have these scenarios brought up it gives people an opening and different perspective. These plans determine what people want and help others proceed with what they want if they cannot communicate it themselves.
How has your work changed your life?
I’ve learned a great deal from all of the differences that people have when they’re going through some type of illness. I love what I do. It’s such a gift.
Has hospice changed your life? Please share your story here.
Is it time for hospice? Contact us anytime for more information at 727-467-7423 or on our website.