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“Have you ever met someone whose presence brings peace and comfort to any situation?”
This is a question Whitney Quimby, RN, posed while describing fellow nurse Nancy Koi, RN. Both are IU Health hospice nurses in the South Central Region.
“Nancy has a passion that shines brightly for our patients at the end of life,” says Quimby. “Her calm demeanor, incredible knowledge and skill, and soothing soul are what every patient and family needs at this stage.”
Koi didn’t take a traditional path into nursing. She graduated from Ohio State with a degree in resource management, worked in that field for a few years, and then spent 17 years at home with her kids. When her father went to the hospital for a triple bypass surgery, Koi saw how great the nurses treated him and started to consider going into the field. A mission trip to Haiti and seeing the great need for nurses and medicine solidified her decision and she went back to school to become a nurse.
She began her nursing career in oncology but eventually felt called to hospice.
“When our terminally ill patients choose hospice, there’s a decision made to live their life the best they can, whatever time they have left. That’s part of what drew me to it,” says Koi. “It’s hard to verbalize, but there’s this overwhelming acceptance and peace I see in so many of our patients.”
Of course, deciding on hospice is never easy for patients or for their loved ones.
“Families are very resistant,” says Koi. “I felt the same way when my dad said he wanted to do it. I thought, ‘well, that’s the death sentence, this is it.’”
But that experience with her father—witnessing the comfort and support hospice provided—and her own experiences as a hospice nurse have shown Koi the importance of hospice care and the impact it can have on the patient and their family.
“There’s this overwhelming fear by most family members that they are going to do something wrong,” she says. “They’re in such a vulnerable time. They’re inundated with all of this information about what they should do and they don’t remember everything and then feel silly because they have to ask us. As hospice nurses, it’s our job to encourage them to always ask. We want them to feel as much support as the patient does.”
When it comes to her patients, Koi says she’s learned so many important life lessons from them.
“This might sound cliché, but almost all of my dying patients, in their own way, say to love each day. You’re not promised tomorrow, next year, ten years from now,” she says. “This job certainly keeps you grounded.”
And while her job is challenging and heart wrenching, there are lighted-hearted moments, too. Koi always asks couples who have been married for a long time for their best advice. Her favorite response was a wife’s matter of fact, “Lower expectations.”
Guided by her faith, Koi feels she’s found her true purpose working in hospice and her colleagues agree.
“Nancy is truly an inspiration to all of those around her and we are lucky to have such an incredibly gifted nurse to work for our team,” says Quimby.