November is National Home Care, Hospice and Palliative Care Month

November 11, 2014

Hesington visiting with patient, Jack Hall, in his home

By Mercy's Madelynn Innes

Whether our patients are recovering from surgery or dealing with a chronic or life-limiting illness, Mercy Home Care can help. In honor of National Home Care, Hospice and Palliative Care Month in November, we’re spotlighting one of our Home Care nurses, Dana Hesignton. It’s people like Dana whose extraordinary compassion, courage, skill and dedication offer peace and dignity to our Home Care patients and their families day after day.

How long have you worked at Mercy, and what other nursing capacities have you served in?

Ten years, during which I worked at Mercy Hospital Aurora on the Medical/Surgical floor before transferring to the Outpatient department. I taught diabetes education for four years and facilitated a diabetic support group. My passion and calling has always been hospice nursing. I was fortunate enough to join the Mercy Hospice team in Aurora about four years ago. I’ve cross trained to work Home Health as well. The nurses and staff I work with are some of the smartest, most caring people I know. We serve seven counties, and our group works very well together.

What is your educational background?

I earned my degree in nursing from The University of Kentucky. After graduating, I worked at a teaching hospital in Kentucky in oncology, a post-surgical unit and a medical floor before moving to Missouri. How would you describe your work, and what inspired you to pursue hospice? Too often, we underestimate the power of a kind word or a touch. Nurses have the power to turn lives around and reunite families on hospice. For me, it was a strong calling to pursue hospice nursing through the death of my son, and over the years, I’ve met many wonderful families who’ve become a blessing to me. My patients fill a space inside of me that was void before. I couldn’t ask for a better job or a place to work other than Mercy Hospice.

At the center of home care is the value that every patient has the right to “choose” (to be independent, pain free as well as live and die with dignity.) How do you feel your work contributes to that patient right?

During a hospice admission, I tend to put the paperwork aside and focus on the patient and their family, taking time to listen to the patient, their fears, and just allow time for them to talk. I can’t imagine what must be going through their minds when they hear the word “hospice” for the first time. I want to know their wishes, their concerns, their fears, and I want to know how they feel about death and dying. These things take time and can’t be asked in a matter-of-fact format. Instead, I build a relationship. The rest comes from God.

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?

Nurses lift the fallen, restore the broken and heal the hurting, yet sometimes, none of this has a thing to do with medication or assessment. Restoring can be a broken heart, healing may be emotional pain in their life, and lifting may simply be the spirit or a burden. Hospice nurses get attached to the patient and the family unit. This can be challenging, but the reward is always the focus.

Tell us about your family.

My husband is a physician for Freeman Health Systems, and our lives are very busy. We have six boys. My oldest son is 23 and in college, ranging down to the youngest, who’s 12.

What keeps you motivated?

No one should die alone or with conflict in their life or with an unforgiving heart. No one should die longing to reconcile with someone who isn’t there for them. My motivation comes from believing that I was placed in this role, and that God will use me as His instrument to provide care when there’s despair and to ensure everyone has a peaceful passing.