Melinda Long, LPN, has no regrets about being a hospice nurse. Hospice fulfills her life, she says.


by James Coburn – Writer/Photographer

Melinda Long is often asked what keeps her as a hospice nurse.
“For me it’s like I’m able to help someone, said Long, LPN, Humanity Hospice, located in Oklahoma City. “It’s kind of like a ministry to me. I’m able to help a patient and a family through a very difficult time. It’s just very rewarding as far as I’m concerned to be able to be there for the patient and the family, to be able to guide them through those really rough difficult times in their last days. I make sure that they’re comfortable and help the family through that.”
Long has been a nurse for 25 years and is currently going through an RN program with Excelsior College online. Her nursing history includes extensive work in home health. She began her career working in a hospital and also worked for a physician.
“After that I got into hospice. A friend of mine said, ‘You should try it,’” she said. “So I’ve been in it seven or eight years now.”
Hospice is a service that is provided to patients and families when a patient has been given a terminal diagnosis. The point is to provide patients a good quality of life for their last days with symptom and pain control.
It’s for the patient and family and making them feel they are not experiencing their journey alone. They have a team of nurses, social workers, chaplains and volunteers to love them during what is perhaps the most vulnerable time of life.
The work, hospice, sometimes scares people, Long said. They often think they are signing their death certificate. But Humanity Hospice serves to enrich life.
Humanity Hospice is different than most places she has worked, Long said. The team has one main goal, she said, and that’s to take care of their patients to be best of their ability.
“We set high standards for our company. We all are in the groove as a team and we all strive for that same goal. And we are all like a family,” she said. “If one person needs help than we all pitch in and help that person. It’s all about our one main goal of giving good quality patient care and to be there for the patients and the family.”
This is severe weather season in Oklahoma. So Long said it’s important to make sure that the patients are safe. Patients’ needs are prioritized during bad weather, she said, whether they be in facilities or in their own homes.
“We’ve got a lot of patients that may be on oxygen – those types of things. So we look at that situation. We want to make sure that our patients have back-up oxygen,” Long continued. “We want to make sure our patients have all of the necessary medications that they need. We make sure everyone is comfortable and cared for. We touch base with the families and that sort of thing, especially those patients in the homes.”
“Now the facilities – we don’t worry as much because they have staff there taking care of them. But our real main concern is making sure our home patients are safe – everybody is safe.”
As she has gotten to know her patients, Long has come to admire their strength. Many of her patients have cancer. Many of them stay in her mind.
“A lot of those patients stick out in my mind who are courageous,” she said.
No matter the situation, be it pain or having a bad day with nausea; they always have a great attitude, Long said.
“They always have a smile. And we do everything we can to make them as comfortable as possible. But those kinds of patients run across my mind because they say, ‘This is what I’ve been dealt with. I’m going to make the most of it,’” Long explained.
Education is key for family members because it is extremely painful to watch a family member go through the dying process.
“We basically guide them through,” said Long, who has always enjoyed being around people. Before nursing, she was in retail. So she was dealing with the public a lot.
“And I just thought, ‘You know, I think I want to do something more involved with people,’” she said. “I’ve always loved the elderly. I’ve always enjoyed the great relationship I had with my grandparents.”
“So to me, I just got in to this, and I just really enjoy doing it,” Long said.