Irene Turner, RN, clinical coordinator for Sooner Hospice, sees the beauty of life endure in each patient.

by James Coburn, Staff Writer

When Irene Turner was 12 years old, her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She would take care of him a lot during his chemotherapy treatments. It is part of the reason she is drawn to hospice, said Turner, RN, clinical coordinator for Sooner Hospice, located in Oklahoma City.
“You come into the families and the patients’ journey during a crucial time,” Turner explained. “You are able to guide them, educate them and help them. It’s just rewarding, I think.”
She had previously been with Sooner for a couple of years, took a break and returned there a year ago. She earned her nursing degree at Rose State College in Midwest City in 2010. But she was an LPN for 10 years prior to that. She was an LPN when she first started hospice and has stayed in hospice for most of her RN career.
Teamwork leads her loyalty to Sooner Hospice.
“It truly is a team. When one nurse is down all the other nurses are pitching in to help her out. Or if she has several visits she needs to do, all the nurses pitch in — the same with all the home health aides as well,” Turner said. “It’s more like a family. You know we all care about one another. It’s the same mindset. We are all there to take care of the patient and please the patient, and hope everything goes smoothly.”
Family is also what Turner loves about her patients. They become part of her extended family, she said. Turner remains in contact with many families she has known through the years.
“So it’s just the rapport and everything that you build with them,” she said.
She recalls on a patient in particular that has touched her life. She would see him three times a week for about two hours a visit. He would tell her all types of stories.
“When you think about that, it’s more time than I spend with my own grandparents or mom. That’s a total of six hours a week that we spent together. So we just really grew.”
“We were really close. He did pass away.”
Turner left hospice for a while after he passed. She needed to get away, said Turner, who has three children, ages 9-20.
“But he’s always in my heart, just because we grew so close,” Turner said. “But we have a memorial service every year and we’ll do a balloon release. And I always write a little note to him on my balloon.”
She takes time in life to smell the roses. Turner likes going to movies, so whenever she has the opportunity, she will go to the cinema and relax. She also likes getting a pedicure.
Turner knows her patients are in good hands. When the shower head of one of her patients had broken, one of the home health aides purchased one so she could give the patient a bath. She didn’t have to purchase it but did it on her own.
“We always try to meet their needs,” she said.
Compassion drives a hospice nurse, Turner continued. Hospice nurses who are successful care about people in general, she said.
“And it shows,” she said.
It takes a person who is empathetic and nonjudgmental. Homes are different. Hospice serve clients living in mansions to the humblest of dwellings. But grief is a common denominator between the two.
People grieve their own way, but share common symptoms of grief.
“Just to be a part of that – to try to help them through that is so rewarding,” she said.
She appreciates the kind text messages she receives from families and patients. One patient passed away two years ago on Mother’s Day. Her son still texts Turner her to say Happy Mother’s Day. It’s hard for him on Mother’s Day without his mom.
“We still keep in contact with them with phone calls and bereavement letters,” she said.
Turner said it is an honor when she is able to be present at the time of a patient’s death. This may not always be possible, but she is grateful when she hears her patient’s last words.
“I remember one particular lady. She was singing for maybe a couple of weeks before she died,” Turner said. “She just kept singing hymns. And she went into a non-responsive state. Then she wasn’t singing anymore. We were all sitting around her, and then she sat up, and then she said, ‘Jesus, I knew you would come.’ And she laid back down and those were her last words.”