A Servant's Heart: EveryStep Hospice Nurse Lori Carlyle

Lori Carlyle has what she calls a servant's heart, a desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

That's exactly what she does each day as a nurse for EveryStep Hospice, not only caring for patients at the end of their lives, but ensuring their families receive comfort and support along the hospice journey.

While Lori has always felt a pull to help others, nursing wasn't her first avenue to do so.

In fact, she worked as an activity director and supervisor for an adult day care center. When she hurt her ankle, requiring a number of surgeries, she began to look inwardly at her life.

"I did a lot of soul searching and praying that if I could just get my ankle fixed that I would serve people in a much different capacity than what I was," she says.

After having significant reconstructive surgery on her ankle in November 1999, Lori began nursing prerequisites in April 2000.

"When I was in nursing school, I did a public health and hospice rotation," Lori recalls. "I said to myself, this is the capacity that I want to serve."

The rest is history, as they say, and for the past decade, Lori has worked as a hospice nurse.

"I just felt drawn to hospice and passionate about it," she says.
Lori, who was recently named among the 100 Great Iowa Nurses for 2020, was impressed with EveryStep as soon as she learned about the non-profit organization.

"I have always felt that EveryStep has had a great reputation for the care they provide," she says. "When I met with [leaders], I was so impressed with their mission and vision that I wanted to be a part of that."

While Lori is happy to be part of the EveryStep team, it's the patients and families she works with each day that make her journey as a nurse worthwhile.

"I love making a difference," she says. "I love being attentive to them and working hard to manage their symptoms so that we can provide them with quality of life."

Lori recalls one instance in which was was called to a patient's home after she suffered a fall. While there, Lori help manage the patient's pain and educated her family on what they could do to help. 

"I spent a lot of time there to get everything in place that she needed," Lori says, noting that she was simply on call and not the patient's primary nurse. "At the end of the visit she asked 'would you be my nurse?' and I told her that I would certainly try to stop and see her and fill in for her nurse. She hugged me and told me she loved me."

The next day, Lori received a call that the patient was actively dying and there was a need for someone to sit with her for a few hours.

"I volunteered," Lori says. "When I arrived at the home, the daughter met me at the door and said 'Lori, my mom fell in love with you and we feel like she is holding on to see you.'"

Lori completed her assessment and talked to the woman quietly. She passed away peacefully with her family surrounding her with love, Lori recalls.

"I will never forget the sacred moment that she allowed me to have," she says.

Though there are many rewarding moments in hospice nursing, Lori notes that the job does take an inner strength, one she says her fellow EveryStep nurses embody.

"Each one of us has a story," Lori says, adding that there are times when the reality of her job can become emotionally heavy. For instance, both her mother and father passed away with hospice services.

"When I have someone with pancreatic cancer, I struggle with that diagnosis," she says. "I am also a cancer survivor, so when I have patients with kidney cancer, those patients hit me hard knowing I survived that diagnosis. But I do feel blessed to serve them to the best of my abilities."

And she feels those abilities are welcomed and nurtured at EveryStep.

"I truly feel at home here," she says. "I feel so respected as a person and a nurse. I feel like [the organization] truly wants each one of us to be successful."

Although hospice nursing might not be for everyone, Lori knows it's her calling.

"The nursing profession is so very broad, it gives you the opportunity to make a difference in so many different ways," she says.

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