Every life has a story and, oftentimes, in every story there are usually one or more heroes. For many hospice patients of Hallmark Health Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, the heroine at the end of their lives is Gina Serino, RN. In her role as hospice nurse, Gina not only helps patients create their life stories, but she also adds to her own life story.
Gina views her job as a gift: “I receive a salary, but I also receive something even greater—what I learn from every patient and family is my reward. Their courage and outlook makes me a stronger person and a much better nurse. I am so honored and humbled that they have allowed me on this journey with them.”
Hospice patients have a life expectancy of six months or less; however, many patients are referred or agree to hospice later in their terminal illness. “There are several reasons why hospice may come a little late in the process,” explains Gina. “Nonetheless, whether I am caring for a patient for a few days or many months, I cannot help but feel a connection.” Gina tailors her role as a hospice nurse to each patient’s needs—for no family situation is the same and every patient is unique as well. “As a hospice nurse, my goal is to help each of my patients ‘live until they die’- – to provide compassionate care that promotes the highest quality of life possible,” she says.
The dying process is an intimate setting in which the emotions of all those involved are close to the surface. Gina stresses that she must focus on maintaining boundaries to help her emotionally. Although, she admits, there are times when the professional and personal intertwine. She recalls recently visiting a patient and, as she was leaving, turned to see the patient’s husband leaning over his wife and gently stroking her head. “I witnessed the beauty of a love that lasted more than sixty years. It was a touching and emotional moment for me. I could not help but think that someday that could be me and my husband,” she says. “Moments, such as this, make me reflect about those in my life and how I must treasure all my days with them.”
Hospice cares for patients in their own homes, extended care facilities, assisted living centers, and in hospitals. No matter where the patient is receiving care, Gina witnesses the blessings of a peaceful ending to life. She has seen families united, after being torn apart for many years. She has also witnessed considerable inner strength from both patients and their loved ones as they embark on this final journey of life. “The entire hospice team—physician, nurse, social worker, bereavement counselor, home health aide—all work towards getting the patient and family to a place of peace and acceptance,” explains Gina. “As a team, our goal is to give patients the opportunity to pass from this life with full support—medically, physically, and emotionally. We also work to provide families with the support they need at this difficult time, and we continue to support them after their loved one passes.”
Every life has a story. Patients are brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and friends. As Gina looks at the photographs in her patients’ homes, they often tell a story. And although there are no photographs of Gina Serino on the walls or mantels, she is a part of that story—even if only for a small part of it.