Debra Von Enck: Helping Patients and Families Through Their Final Chapter Together - St Augustine Health Ministries

Debra Von Enck: Helping Patients and Families Through Their Final Chapter Together

The interdisciplinary team at Holy Family Hospice combines expert medical care, pain management and emotional and spiritual support to help guide patients and families through their final chapter together. We tailor service according to each patient’s needs and wishes.

Clinical Nurse Specialists have advanced their educations and obtained a master’s degree and additional certification. This demonstrates an advanced level of knowledge as well as advanced clinical skills in a niche area of nursing. They provide diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management of patients. In addition, they provide expertise and support to nurses caring for patients at the bedside. CNS’s are a conduit for a patient’s ever-changing medical information and ensure each person is able to get the care they need, when they need it

Debra Von Enck, CNS, APRN is an important part of the Holy Family care team. Debra received a Master of Science in Medical-Surgical Nursing (specialty Oncology) and has worked as a clinical nurse specialist at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Cleveland Clinic. She has served as part of the University of Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty and brings a high level of medical knowledge, communication skills and compassion to the patients and families at Holy Family Home.

Debra is married with three daughters. She says the best event of 2019 was witnessing the birth of her first granddaughter in December. We spoke to Debra about her journey into the hospice field and her experience providing care and support to our patients and their families.

What motivated you to go into health care? Oncology?

Although my first love was biology, one of my teachers encouraged me to consider nursing. I will always be grateful for that sage advice. I started my nursing career working in critical care but soon realized that I wanted more opportunities to engage with the patient through education and providing psycho-social support. As I was considering a Master’s program, I realized that the oncology specialty especially focused on these areas along with providing for their physical needs.

What brought you to Holy Family Hospice?

After taking some time off work to attend to some family matters, I began pursuing options for returning to nursing. Although I have worked in various areas of cancer care, including symptom management of patients receiving treatment and counseling clients with the gene mutations, I decided to return to caring for patients during end stage disease. My long time friend Angie, who works at Holy Family, encouraged me to apply here.

What is the difference between a traditional nursing role and a hospice nurse?

The one difference with hospice care is that there are specific needs that come with a patient who is dying. This includes acknowledging the needs of the family as well, who many times are experiencing some level of crisis as they transition from the mindset of treatment toward cure or disease management for their loved one to providing care for comfort. For many, this transition is not easy. Providing much needed support through listening to their concerns, providing information about the disease process and comfort treatment options as well as addressing the needs of the family members, can make all the difference.

What makes Holy Family different?

Holy Family does not feel like an institution, but more like a “home away from home” because our focus is on celebrating life and all the little things that matter to the patient and family for the time given.

 What is an impactful family or patient experience you have had?

One recent experience involved a young woman whose mother was admitted to the inpatient unit at Holy Family. At first, the daughter appeared very distrustful, distant and even antagonistic during the admission process. As I engaged with her and spent time addressing her questions and concerns and exploring the situation, it became clear to me that she was physically and emotionally exhausted. She was not only taking care of her mother’s complex needs but she was caring for her small children and was the sole income provider for her family because her husband was laid off from his job. As I reassured her how we would provide for her mother’s complex needs now along with our desire to support her as well, she began to cry. During the remaining time her mother was at Holy Family, the daughter was much more relaxed and very appreciative of the care provided to her mother.

What is the biggest personal reward that you have received in your time working at Holy Family Hospice?

I enjoy being part of a team of health professionals whose goals are to provide excellent care to patients who are dying and their families.

What do you wish people knew about hospice?

When patients are transferred to hospice care, it doesn’t mean that their health care team is giving up on them. Instead, I wish patients knew that when treatment is no longer curing or managing the disease process, there is another approach that will help them, focusing on the quality of their life.

About Holy Family Hospice: Holy Family Hospice is a not-for-profit, faith-based hospice, bringing peace and comfort to patients and families of all faiths and walks of life. With its origin dating back to Rose Hawthorne, founder of the modern hospice movement in the early 1900’s, Holy Family Home opened in 1956 and was the cornerstone for end-of-life care in greater Cleveland area. Today, our goal is and always will be to remain grounded in our mission and to never lose sight of the ever-changing, individualized needs of our patients as they enter this next phase of life’s journey. Holy Family Hospice is a service of St. Augustine Health Ministries. For more information call 440.888.7722 or visit: http:\\

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