Interview with Marilyn Colley, RN, CHPN

Marilyn Colley, RN, CHPN

Mother, Grandmother, Hospice Nurse, and Administrator

Marilyn S. Colley started as an oncology nurse with a dream to become a hospice nurse, which she has been since 1994. She was certified as a Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse “CHPN” in 1996.

“Hospice was always my heart’s desire. Both of my parents died too young of cancer. They died before hospice was available in the US (prior to 1983). They both died in pain and with no support to our family. It breaks my heart that anyone would have to die that way. We know so much more now about end-of-life care.

It is always such an honor and privilege to be allowed into a patient’s home and life when they are really doing the work of saying goodbye. We get one chance to make a difference.

We employ highly trained professionals who also have a passion for hospice and then support them so they can do the work they are called to do.”

Q: How did you become involved in Hospice?
Marilyn ColleyI have been a hospice nurse since 1996. I started as an oncology nurse; this gave me a good clinical foundation for my hospice work. In hospice, you are the eyes and ears for the doctor and interventions are based on your assessment. My parents both passed away without Hospice support, as hospice didn’t exist officially in the U.S. until 1982. At the time, I was graduating high school, I had an older brother, my younger brother was 12 years old, and my sister was 10. There wasn’t a hospice team to check on how everyone was doing, have the hard, uncomfortable conversations or help us prepare. I makes me sad, as I know my parents could have been more comfortable and my family could have used the support of a hospice team.

Q: Why is Angels Grace Hospice a special place to work?
I actually thought of leaving hospice because I felt that no one was doing Hospice Care the way it should be done…with the family and patient first. Angels Grace Hospice embraces the philosophy of; take care of your employees and they will be able to provide the best for the patients we serve. Our care is not based on numbers or productivity, but on needs of the patient and their families. Angels Grace Hospice was built on that foundation, “to comfort always, that is our work” as Administrator, I embrace and carry on that philosophy.

Q: Tell me your favorite Hospice moment?
While working as a field nurse, I was visiting a patient. He did not look well; I called the wife to tell her she might want to come home. The patient looked grey in color, had low blood pressure, and had quit speaking. There were 13 adult children in this family. I was in the home for 4-5 hours to give the family support and ensure pt. was comfortable. One of the sons had recently moved to California and could not afford a plane ticket or didn’t feel he could take off work to come home. The pt was surrounded in love by the rest of his children and wife. Later in the day, I was taking a blood pressure when the pt. opened his eyes, held up his hands and said, “Wait, I’m not ready.” At that point I had been in the home for 7-8 hours. I don’t know who he was talking to, but shortly after, his blood pressure increased and he began to have more color. I stayed for a couple more hours, called the office with my amazing update….finally gave the family my pager and told them to call if any changes occurred. Unbeknownst to the family, the son in California, boss paid for his flight home. The son surprised his family and was able to say goodbye to his father, who died about 15 minutes later. Did the pt. know all of that was in the works? No way to know, but what a gift for all of us!

Q: What is your job title? And what is a typical day like?
I am the Hospice Administrator and oversee the program. In a small agency, staff wear many hats. I can wear a hat as a compliance officer, I can fill in as a clinical director to help solve clinical problems, I am compliance officer and I fill in as a nurse administrator on call. Today, I am preparing information for joint commission.

Q: What do you want people to know about Angels Grace Hospice?
Angels Grace Hospice has grown by leaps and bounds, all by the great reputation we have earned, yet, we continue to have the philosophy of a small agency, EVERYONE makes a difference, EVERYONE counts. We can change a policy or procedure in a day or two if needed, we use the regulations to set the standard for care and then work to exceed those standards. The staff have the opportunity to come into my office or any of the leadership group to talk to me about anything … a challenging case, frustration with a policy or procedure… or maybe, just to share how their day is going. Even though we have grown, we still maintain an open door/ need your input, company policy. Engaging with staff is so important, they are the folks in the trenches, the real heroes of Angels Grace Hospice.

Thank you, Marilyn.

Glorious Unfolding

Every Wednesday morning, at our office we have an Interdisciplinary Group Meeting in our conference room. We discuss, one-by-one, each of the patients’ cases. It is fascinating – especially if you’ve had any medical training – or ever wanted to have any of it.

We open and close each of these IDG meetings with something special such as a poem or a prayer. But at the last IDG meeting we closed with a song.

It was of special significance because it was the favorite of a patient who had recently passed. She was a young woman and had been with Angels Grace for a long time. Most everyone around the table knew her (or of her) and her struggle… and ultimately of her peace. Everyone shared their memories of her and we played her favorite song.

It brought us peace and comfort and we want to share it with you…