Heather Speer brings compassion to her nursing career at Frontier Hospice along with communication skills and team spirit.

by James Coburn, Staff Writer

Heather Speer says she has a great time going to work as a licensed practical nurse at Frontier Hospice.
“What’s the saying? ‘You are never without a good day in your life if you love your job.’” she said.
Speer has been a licensed practical nurse for 10 years since graduating from nursing school in Virginia. She’s been with Frontier Hospice for nearly two months. Speer has worked in home health or hospice for eight years.
“We do primarily hospice, and we also do what is called a Transitions Program,” Speer said. “So right now I am the admissions nurse for hospice, and then I also work with the Transitions Program.”
The program is a partnership with some hospitals and nursing facilities to help patients navigate the health care system, she explained. This is helpful for patients with chronic diseases who are high risk for hospitalization. Frontier follows those patients for about 30 days, she said.
“We go in there and set them up to be successful in not going back to the hospital,” Speer said. “Whether that be setting them up with referrals for the Advantage Program, giving them home health services, helping them fill out paperwork to get their Medicaid started. It’s a free program that we do just as a service for the community. And it helps those hospitals not have to have those patients come back to their emergency room.”
The program has been highly rewarding because Frontier sees those patients begin to thrive once they leave a hospital or even a nursing home, she said. Nursing home patients that are trying to transition to return home benefit from Meals on Wheels through the Transitions Program. Transportation services are also facilitated.
“We help them organize their medications,” Speer said. “We help them find resources to get medications if they can’t afford them. So it’s a pretty neat program and we’re proud of it.”
Her career allows her to go home knowing she has benefitted humanity. Hospice care is a different type of nursing, Speer added. In nursing school, she was taught to save lives. Hospice is kind of the reverse effect of that, Speer said. Today, she provides comfort in a system of holistic care.
“You know we’re all going to die,” she said. “And the only thing you can hope is someone will be by your side. And that’s what we do.”
Hospice is not only for the patients, but also for their family members. Families benefit from Frontier Hospice’s close contact even after their loved one dies.
Every hospice situation is different, but a common thread of a hospice family is their strength, Speer said. She admires them for that and their enduring love for one another.
“They love that loved one that is dying. And they want to do everything they can to make sure they’re happy and comfortable, and leave this world that we’re in feeling okay,” Speer said. “So I admire the strength that comes out of people during that time.”
Frontier hospice has a circle of care meeting the needs of its patients. It has a team approach including nurses, home health aides, chaplains, social workers, volunteers, physicians and a pharmacist. It takes an interdisciplinary team to deal with the daily changes in a patient’s life.
“The teamwork here is stellar,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud. It’s very good.” She admires her coworkers’ drive.
“It’s very rewarding to work with people that have that same drive and beliefs that you do, that generally care about these patients.”
It is touching for Speer to notice when a nurse will take a patient a milkshake during their time off from work, said Speer, who enjoys concerts during her leisure time
“You get really attached to people. You get to know their families, their dogs, their cats, their grandkids. So that’s really rewarding,” she explained. “You can see it in their faces.”
Speer has gone so far as picking families up at the airport when they fly to Oklahoma City from another state. They get to see their loved ones before she will drive them back to the airport.
“I’ll go get them food because they don’t want to leave the bedside,” she said. “It’s those little things that count.”
It is hard for families living in another state to be away from their dying loved ones. Frontier Hospice strives to keep these families in the loop, Speer said.
“We will call them after visits. We do get calls at 3 a.m. in the morning just because a family member is upset,” she said. “We’re here to listen to that and help them try to work through it.”
She said the company relies on God as the center of its work ethic.
“Every week, we meet and we pray. We talk about the people who have passed the week before, say prayers for their families,” she said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without God.”


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