Kathy Rowland, RN - Case Manager, HPH Hospice
Kathy Rowland experienced hospice as a family member before she made hospice nursing her chosen profession. A “late bloomer” as a nurse, Rowland has grown and flourished in the hospice setting as she helps patients meet their final journey with dignity.
“I took care of my father in 2003, when he was dying. I watched how the hospice team was with him, the care they provided. I had never experienced that before,” she said.
A medical transcriptionist for 25 years, Rowland had been thinking about going back to school for a nursing degree. Seeing the hospice team at work, she thought, “I have got to be part of that.
“I talked to my father about it before he died. He made me promise that I’d go back to school to fulfill that goal. He threatened to come back and haunt me if I didn’t! Two months later, I walked into my first nursing class,” Rowland said. “When I walked out of that class, I looked up and said, ‘see, Dad, I’m doing it.’”
After earning her RN in 2009, Rowland worked in several settings — a hospital, another hospice, a long-term care facility, and back to hospice. She has been with HPH hospice for more than three years, most of that time as a case manager.
“I always come back to hospice,” she said. “It’s my first love.”
As a case manager, Rowland oversees the care of patients who are in their homes. She refers to herself as the “go between” between the patient and family and the hospice care team of doctor, nurses, aides, social worker, chaplain, and volunteers.
“I see what the patient needs physically, emotionally, socially, and personally, and provide that with the help of my team,” she said. “I provide a lot of emotional support, get medications the patient needs to control symptoms, and confer with doctors.
“I love that, with hospice, the patient can stay at home. It’s what most people want near the end of life. We try to do everything we can to make that happen, so they are surrounded by family in a comfortable environment,” she added. “This is their world, and they invite us into it at the most difficult time. It’s not easy for people to do that, I really respect it. It’s a privilege for me and my team to be invited in to help.”
Hospice is a different kind of nursing, Rowland explained. The team of professionals works to make sure the patient is comfortable, and to provide support and education to the patient and family.
“It’s a different mindset,” she said. “Sometimes the patient and family are surprised when they find out we’re not going to be doing a lot of testing, no sticking with needles or procedures or trips to the ER. They are relieved because at this point they just want comfort and quality. It’s all about their wishes and making their lives as comfortable as possible.”
“Kathy is exceptional with her inquisitive mind and highly developed skills of assessment and intervention,” said Karen Nuzzi, RN, clinical manager of the HPH Hospice Citrus team. “The average person can only imagine how humbling this occupation can be. Just knowing how to react with a compromised patient having a dramatic change in their level of consciousness takes both compassion and good training. With family around the bed, there are questions and emotions flying. This is where Kathy shines as she can quickly establish rapport and trust with the patients and their families.
“To quote Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, ‘I attribute my success to this; I never gave or took any excuse.’ We live in a culture of excuses,” added Nuzzi. “but Kathy always seems to find the time to help or squeeze in another appointment. There are days that are overwhelming, but that’s when we rely on our team, our own resources. This is what makes a company great, filled with employees who are willing to be a Kathy.”
Rowland moved with her family from New York to Citrus County 40 years ago. She and her husband, Joe, have two daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter. She credits her passion for hospice nursing to divine intervention.
“The two most intimate times in a person’s life are birth and death. As a nurse, I am drawn to being part of someone’s journey when they are nearing end-of-life,” she said. “I was at a dark place in my life almost 23 years ago and where I am now is nothing short of a miracle. I am an example of the transformation that can happen if you let God into your heart and life.”