May 11, 2020
A Life's Mission Of Compassion & Care: EveryStep Hospice Nurse Linda Staggs
As a young girl growing up on a farm, Linda Staggs helped to deliver lambs, calves and foals. She liked the work, the responsibility and being part of their care.
So, it only makes sense that Linda’s compassionate nature would lead her toward a career in nursing and helping people who were ill or hurt.
"I loved taking care of them," the EveryStep Hospice nurse in the Centerville area recalls, adding that she also had a desire to learn more about long-term care.
"After starting nursing classes I think I fell in love with the medical part of it and decided to go further with my education," she said.
But she never thought of hospice care. In fact, when she started her nursing career she hadn't even heard about hospice care.
After working in the hospital setting and then as a director of nursing for a local nursing home, Staggs was finally introduced to hospice and all it could offer to patients and their families.
When a position opened with Hospice of Central Iowa (now known as EveryStep), Linda jumped at the opportunity.
"I thoroughly enjoy hospice, teaching and caring for patients and their families," she says.
While she's learned the ins and outs of hospice care over the years, Linda says she's often still surprised about the misconceptions others have.
"What surprises me the most is the lack of knowledge of what hospice is about," she says. "So many don’t understand end of life. I think it is being talked about more now but it is something that needs discussed prior to needing us.”
Linda wants people to understand that hospice isn't about giving up hope, either.
"I hear so many say 'you have to fight,'" she says. "I just want people to understand it's okay not to fight, that sometimes you just want to live."
Linda notes that she's had many memorable patients in the past.
"We had one gentleman that was so pleasant and he thought he knew the nurse I was training at the time," she recalls. "Each time we would visit he would smile and ask her 'how's Larry?'"
But no one, including the patient's wife, knew who Larry was. Still, Linda and the nurse in training went along with the questioning as it made the man happy.
That go-with-the-flow attitude has served Linda well recently as she's prepared to care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"COVID-19, I think it is a bump in the road and we will get through it just like we have other infectious diseases," she says. "Our world might look a little different, we might have a new normal, but we’ll be okay."
Linda says she's proud of EveryStep's response to the pandemic, noting the organization’s ability to care for its patients wherever they are – home, a facility or the EveryStep Hospice COVID-19 unit.
"It’s great we have this [COVID-19 hospice unit] now so families can visit where so many can’t in the facilities," she says. "With proper PPE [personal protective equipment], I think we will all be okay," she says. "EveryStep Hospice was stepping up very quickly to be able to care for these patients in a unit or at home with education and supplies that we need to properly function."
In the end, pandemic or not, Linda knows hospice will have a place in the care of people.
"Hospice in general is becoming the norm, it's being spoken about more and more, so people can let families know their wishes before it's needed," she says. "I would have never dreamed I would be a hospice nurse and now I never want to leave it."
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