March is Social Work Month in the United States and we’d like to take this time to thank all the amazing, compassionate social workers throughout the country, the world, and of course here at the VNA. Our social workers are integral to the organization and help ensure that our patients who receive home health, hospice, and advance care planning enjoy the quality care they deserve.
The VNA has many wonderful social workers, including Jacquelyn Ruiz, MSW, who is both a hospice counselor and advance care planning specialist. Jacquelyn has helped a myriad of patients with terminal illnesses spend their days in a peaceful, joyful way. This includes hospice patients like Dominick LaCavalla who had one final wish, to visit his son in Colorado. Dominick mentioned this in passing to Jacquelyn, and unbeknownst to him, she immediately set a plan in motion through Project Wish, a VNA Hospice & Foundation program that grants end-of-life wishes to hospice patients. A few weeks later, Dominick was on a plane Denver-bound, and Jacquelyn couldn’t have been more thrilled. “I knew how much this would mean to him and to his family considering his health condition,” she says.
Another fabulous VNA Hospice counselor, Danette Bray, LMHC with an MA in counseling, originally worked with teenagers for 23 years in a high school setting but was “captivated” by hospice staff when her sister was dying and decided to change trajectories. “I thought it was the right time in my life to assist people through a tough part of our life cycle experiences,” she says.
And we are fortunate to have her. Danette has helped countless numbers of patients in the seven years since she started with the VNA, but she remembers when she began. “The most difficult job was the first meeting. Every door you open has a story. Some are sad, others are welcoming and grateful, and still others are in the throes of accepting hospice admission and what it all means to have quality of life at end of life,” says Danette. “I am still learning from my patients what it takes to be strong yet humbled by their situation and that a good sense of humor and hope is still the best medicine… Often hospice is the best care anyone will receive in their lifetime. How can you not want to be a part of that?”