As a hospice nurse, Kathy Gavini is dedicated to helping her clients cope with end-of-life issues. This includes everything from managing pain to being sure a patient’s mentally challenged grandson receives the proper counseling.
“I love all aspects of my job,” says Gavini, who has been the clinical services direc tor for Broad Reach Hospice on Cape Cod for the past three years. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be with patients and their families at such a critical time.”
A nurse for 28 years, Gavini came to hospice work six years ago, after the death of her sister. Dealing with death had always been part of her job as a nurse, but in help ing her sister die with grace, Gavini realized how rewarding the work could be. At Broad Reach Hospice, which serves clients in their homes or other care facilities, she now coordinates care for 80 to 100 patients a year.
“In hospice, we consider the patient and family as a unit of care,” explains Marsha McCarthy, the administrator at Broad Reach Hospice. “Thus, our job consists of pain relief and palliative care, but we are also there to counsel the dying and their survivors. Each situation is different, and Kathy is exceptionally good at honoring the individual needs of patients and their families.”
McCarthy recalls one patient who knew death was near and said the one thing he longed for was a beer. “So Kathy got up, went out, and bought him a beer,” she says. When another patient said she wanted to put her feet in the ocean one more time before she died, the nurses brought her a bucket of sand and seawater.”Everyone has such different needs,” Gavini agrees, recalling one patient who seemed especially anxious about her situation. “I asked what I could do for her, and she finally confessed that she wanted to balance her checkbook,” says Kathy. “I had to laugh, since I hadn’t balanced my own checkbook in 30 years. But that’s what made her feel good. She was relieved that she wouldn’t leave the chore for her daughter.”
In her letter nominating Gavini for recognition, Susan Henderson writes about the service Gavini provided to a dying professor who once taught nursing. The woman knew what she wanted: to die in her own bed. It was the daughter who needed to adjust to the loss and learn to be with her mother during this final stage. Gavini and her team tended to the two women, nursing the relationship as much as the patient. But there was one last wish of her mother of which the daughter was not aware.
“She wanted to put together a photo album for her daughter,” says Gavini, gathering up all family photos into a memory book. When the mother died, the nurses, who’d worked on the project in secret, presented her daughter with the finished album. “I remember how grateful she was,” says Gavini. “I remember all the patients I’ve helped and all of their families. That’s what I love about hospice, being part of this important moment in their lives.”
The Nomination Letter
Wonder Nurse: Kathy Gavini Broad Reach Hospice
I work with the best nurses on the Cape. But one stands out as Wonder Nurse. Her name is Kathy Gavini and she works for our Hospice organization I have worked with Kathy for many years and have witnessed her go above and beyond to help her patients and their families to receive the best care and support possible. Kathy has a great deal of patience, she spends time educating families on what to expect during each stage of the dying process, and is there for them if they need her.
We had a patient with breast cancer she wanted to die in her home, in her own bed. She had a beautiful king size, four poster, canopy bed, which was higher from the ground than your standard bed. Kathy promised this woman she would have her wish.
Our patient’s daughter was having a very difficult time with her mother dying: she didn’t want to be alone with her and told us she could not help with her care or be present when she was dying. But in the weeks before her mother’s death, the daughter became more comfortable with what was happening. It took a lot of coaching from the team and Kathy’ s magic to turn this into a very special time for mother and daughter. The two would lie in the huge bed together and reminisce, laugh, and cry. It was beautiful for us to all witness this connection. Kathy would always schedule her visits when I was with this patient to help me with her care. We would climb onto this bed and make her beautiful and comfortable. Our patient would laugh at us despite her growing weakness.
The day came and Kathy called me to come to the house. Our patient died with her daughter in bed with her and all of us at her side. The daughter helped us with her mother’s care after her death. The experience was so positive for the daughter. These are very personal memories she will hold onto during her grieving. Wonder Nurse Kathy did her magic again.
—Nominated by Susan Henderson, CNA