March 21, 2019
What it's Like to be an EveryStep Hospice Social Worker: Tonya Pierson
No day is the same for EveryStep social workers. Just ask Tonya Pierson.
From reuniting a patient at Greater Regional Hospice Home with her husband who was a patient with another hospice provider to simply buying gift cards to help ease their financial concerns; Pierson is always ready to lend a helping hand.
Pierson has dedicated her time and energy the last six-and-a-half years to ensuring patients and their families experience quality support and compassion while in EveryStep’s care. As a member of the EveryStep Hospice team in Osceola, Pierson visits patients in their homes throughout south-central Iowa.
“I wanted to do something that allowed me to make a positive difference in the lives of others,” Pierson said of being drawn to hospice social work. “I looked into hospice and what it means, what services it offered and what the benefits were for the patient and family. Helping someone have quality of life up until the end sounded like the positive difference I could help make.”
Pierson and her team are responsible for helping patients and their families cope with their end of life diagnosis. They assist with financial issues, insurance issues and end-of-life wishes.
"We strive for quality of life for the patient for whatever time they have left," she says.
Not everyone “gets it,” though. Pierson is often met with the questions like, “How do you do it? How do you work with the dying?” Her answer is simple: “Hospice social work is challenging at times, but it’s very rewarding. I love what I do.”
“When someone is at the end of life and they choose hospice care, they are getting the benefit of a team that will help them be comfortable: physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” Pierson says.
Part of that includes facilitating Quality of Life wishes, helping patients and their families to make lasting memories.
For instance, Pierson recalls helping a patient at the Greater Regional Hospice Home reunite with her husband, who was on hospice with another provider. As Pierson recalls, the woman had been an EveryStep Hospice patient at her home when her husband was moved to a local hospice for hospice care.
When the woman moved to the Greater Regional Hospice Home, Pierson and the hospice care team noticed how much the couple missed each other. After a discussion with the husband’s care team, it was determined he could be moved to hospice house to be near his wife. The care staff was even able to move two beds near each other’s, so the couple could hold hands and be together.
“It was really beautiful,” Pierson recalls, noting that not all quality-of-life wishes are quite as involved.
Pierson fondly recalls another patient wish, in which she helped arrange a visit to a local Harley Davidson dealership for a patient. A trolley picked up the patient, took him to the dealership where he was able to tour motorcycles, see a room of antique Harley's and pick out a new Harley shirt.
"Seeing the smile on their faces, and sometimes, the surprise in their eyes… it is priceless," Pierson says. "It’s such a small thing but has such a positive outcome."
More recently, Tonya assisted in contacting Iowa Hawkeyes basketball coach Fran McCaffrey to procure a basketball signed by the team. The patient, a huge Iowa Hawkeye fan, was confined to his bed and chair, spending most of his time watching television, and more specifically Iowa Hawkeyes basketball games.
“Social workers are great listeners,” Pierson said. “We aren’t judgmental, and we meet the patient and family where they are. We help with whatever psychosocial needs the patient and family have.”