2018 is Joyce Story’s professional golden anniversary. She has been a nurse for fifty years!
Graduating in 1968 from Wichita General Hospital School of Nursing, a three year diploma program at the hospital in Wichita Falls, Texas, Joyce lived in the nurses’ dormitory under the close supervision of a house mother. She remembers white caps, sharpening needles, sterilizing syringes to use over and over again.
Joyce’s first nursing job was in pediatrics, and now, fifty years later, she reflects that she has come “full circle”, working in end-of –life care as a Field Mentor and Home Care nurse for Hospice of East Texas.
In the years in-between Joyce has done med-surg nursing, been a house supervisor, and an assistant director of nursing. She served as director of nursing in a hospital for twenty one years.
Ten years ago, she joined the staff of Hospice of East Texas.
As a Home Care nurse, Joyce spends her days visiting her hospice patients in their homes, in nursing homes and in assisted living facilities. She treasures the close relationships and friendships she develops with patients and their families. “I always tell them, ‘I’m not a boss. I’m part of a team that will help you in your final days. I promise to be here for you and to do anything I can to make these days as comfortable and joyful as possible.’” For Joyce, this work, these relationships, are a privilege, one she’s not ready to give up just yet.
“I love this work,” Joyce asserts, though she acknowledges that it can be difficult, mentally, physically and emotionally. “I put 2400 miles on my car every month, traveling to see my patients. The time behind that windshield is actually good for me. I think. I pray. I recharge so that I can be my best for the next family I visit.”
“My rule is to treat people the way I want to be treated,” Joyce says. “Death will come for all of us. It doesn’t matter how much money we have or what we have accomplished in life. I hope there will be someone there for me when my time comes.”
For Joyce, there are so many memories from her years as a hospice nurse, but one stands out in particular. Her patient was a hoarder, in a horrible living situation. “Of course, all of us – nurses, social workers, physicians, volunteers – we all wanted to ‘fix it’, move the patient to someplace better, but that was her home and that’s where she wanted to stay. She died peacefully in her home, just as she wanted. She died with dignity. Every human being deserves that.”
If Joyce could change one thing about her work, it would be that families call for hospice care sooner. “There are so many misconceptions about hospice,” she says. “We do NOT hasten death! Our team can bring so much peace and comfort to patients and to their families, but we need time to do that.”