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Hospice CNA: Not Just a Title to Me

By Celeste M. Billups CHPNA, CNA, CMA

I bet I can ask the question, “How many of you have ever felt so sick and made the comment I think I’m going to die”? And some of you reading this article could raise your hand. I could raise my hand too because only because I did almost die. IN 2015, I had 3 surgeries back to back, was released home a few weeks later, got home only to not be able to walk, go to the bathroom and was in extreme pain. I returned back to the hospital only to learn I had become septic. I presented with such a low blood pressure it even scared the nurse that they rushed me to the back. I had a high fever; I couldn’t get my words out. I thought these are the symptoms I see in my patients who are dying, I’m going to die. The Drs. and nurses were asking me questions and saying things that I could answer or get my thoughts together to answer. After waking up 3 days later, only to be hooked up to machines, pain pump, blood pressure cuffs, IV’s, o2 monitor, I realized I made it, barely, but I made it.

So on this particular day of waking up and seeing all the flutter of activity in my room, a young woman walks into my room, tells me her name and that she is a CNA and that she is here to give me a bath. She didn’t ask how I was feeling or if I was experiencing any pain, she just proceeded to get her things ready to give me a bath. We started this process with the look of humiliation due to embarrassment and the disgust of how my body looked after being so many surgeries. When it was time to do peri-care, I couldn’t hold back the tears because here I was a CNA having to experience the very same ADL’s that I do for my patients every day and I never once thought about what they may be feeling on the inside. I had to learn how to transfer, pivot, walk with assist and even had to have help going to the bathroom. The emotional walls that went up having a 20 something year old walk in the room and announce “I’m here to help you go to the bathroom or I’m here to help you take a bath” was just draining.

When I was finally released from the hospital again, I began looking at being a CNA from a new perspective, a patient’s perspective. I took all those feelings, upsets, hurts and wrote them down but as I wrote them down, I would write how I would change things that were associated with those feelings. My approach with patients was the first to change. No longer would I just introduce myself and announce the intentions of my visit, I would just sit and listen to my patient and see what kind of day they were having today. I had to learn to “listen with the intent to understand, not to reply”. Compassion and empathy are 2 very important characteristics for a Hospice CNA. I have always had compassion to care for others but now I could honestly say to my patients I empathize with you.

I became a sounding board for both my patients and their caregivers as I was there for both of them. Caregivers are often times forgotten, so I wanted to make sure that they felt appreciated and cared for as well. As most of my patients are in various stages of their disease process and some are closer than others to leaving this earth, I share my story with them and their families to let them know I understand the fears and grief. I try to include my able patients in their ADL care and those who are not able I try to make it more relaxing less rushed and “job orientated”.

Being a Hospice CNA is so much more than a title to me. I was given another chance at life so my calling has now turned into my passion. I was promoted to CNA Trainer at my place of employment. I love sharing knowledge and learning from other CNA’s. I like to train “outside of the box” and not just textbook training. I want my patients to always know that even though you are a Hospice patient, I am not here to help you die; I’m here to help you live.

Hi, my name is Celeste Billups. I am a Hospice CNA of 18 years. I am the CNA trainer for my all new hires and I give inservices to our skilled nursing communities about Hospice. I love my patients and I am honored and privileged to serve others as Hospice CNA. I am the 2017 Champion of Caring for my company, an honor I am most humbled to receive. I am mother to a son and daughter and a MeMe to a very handsome little boy.

Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia
Facebook page: CNA Community Advocate