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From Nursing to Volunteer: How Hospice Made a Wonderful Life and Career

by Fern Weaver Hibbard, RN

Since its inception, it has been my privilege to be associated with Hospice Brazos Valley. I must return to my exposure to the concept of hospice in 1968. I had a nursing position at LSU medical school, working with an oncology doctor. We had an area set aside in the hospital, a section for MD Anderson Hospital. We cared for the patients and administered chemotherapy, and loved them. The patients range in age from 15 to 86.

I quickly realized I knew very little about death and dying and how to help our patients. Our nursing and medical schools did not teach anything about death and dying at that time. Thank goodness they teach it now.

Fern Eade, RN in 1960

I went to the medical library at LSU, and the only book they had available was by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, “On Death and Dying.” It inspired me and gave me direction as a nurse.

In June and July of 1981, I cared for my dear husband at our home in Bryan, Texas, when he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was only 42, and I cared for him and our two young boys. Every day I prayed that I could take care of him in the way he deserved. And I was able to use the experience I had at LSU medical school. Since he did not want to pass in a hospital surrounded by machines, I turned our living room into a makeshift hospital room. I rented a hospital bed, administered medications, and did personal care. It was the most devastating yet rewarding experience. He died 11 weeks later.

In 1988, there was a notice in the Bryan-College Station Eagle inviting anyone interested in starting a hospice in Brazos Valley to attend a meeting at First Christian Church. There were about 20 or 30 people there. Anne Hazen, R.N was there facilitating and explaining the benefits of having a hospice in the community. At that time, I worked full-time for Bryan Independent School District as the nurse coordinator. I was immediately interested in pursuing my career part-time with Hospice Brazos Valley.

I worked part-time during summers alongside a nurse aide named Bertha and a few other PRN nurses, and it was a learning experience for all.

I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

We started the hospice in a small room in an office donated by insurance agent Jeff Andrick. Those were very lean times. We had donated supplies on the corner table, telephones, and all the minimal necessary things that we needed.

Over the years, we grew exponentially. I had the privilege of working with the most outstanding nurses ever. They demonstrated their love, care, concern, and professionalism more than I can say. It makes me proud to see how much Hospice Brazos Valley has grown.

I remarried in 1995 and retired. I moved away for ten years until my husband had a significant stroke, and we moved back to Bryan. I cared for him for several years and then brought Hospice Brazos Valley in for the last eight months of his life. It was indeed a lifesaver because they sent nurse aides to help me. The nurse who was his case manager was one of the most loving people I have ever met.

After he passed and some time passed, I began volunteering. It was easy, like a comfortable pair of shoes, to assume the duties of a volunteer. I didn’t do any medical care, but I provided emotional and physical support, sitting with patients and interacting with their families. I offered encouragement, love, and a listening ear. I grew attached to the patients and the families and often see some in the community even today.

I think volunteering is a gift. It is an honor to give back to the community. I am just one person, but I can make a difference because of my understanding of hospice and the value that it has brought to my family’s life, my career, Fern Weaver Hibbard, 2021

my outlook on life, and my community.

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