Care Dimensions – midpoint

The idea of securing an internship was always an intimidating career step to me. Everyone has a different idea of what an intern should do, whether they should be paid, and how valuable their experience really is. I was afraid that interns were overburdened, insufficiently supported workers whose sole contribution was to carry out their supervisor’s agenda without having strong ties to the rest of the office or team. Luckily, this has not been my experience this summer at Care Dimensions.

My biggest surprise as I began working regularly in the office was that my supervisor rarely had a strict agenda for me to complete. Though this was part of my expectation of internships, my background as a full-time student also contributed to this assumption. By the first day of classes at Brandeis, each professor has spent at least half an hour explaining a three to seven page syllabus that often contains a detailed schedule for the full semester. While, as a student, I generally knew how to best organize and prepare for my academic responsibilities ahead of time, I’ve had to become very flexible in my position within Care Dimensions. In the past two weeks, I have driven to patients’ homes while shadowing a nurse practitioner; I have worked in the Waltham office and the Kaplan Family

There are 20 rooms in Kaplan, and all beds can be moved onto the outdoor patio overlooking gardens. This offers many bed-bound patients an opportunity to safely see the sun.

Hospice House (KFHH) in Danvers; and I have helped on projects for four different volunteer coordinators and two different bereavement counselors in the two separate offices. Most recently, I have been working on small projects for a bereavement counselor in the Kaplan House, and that has required fast familiarity with several areas of the program used to store patient data. The tasks themselves are simple enough, but it involves a lot of data entry and modification. Though the counselor showed me how to do this, I quickly discovered that if I spent some time exploring the program, I would find a new approach that was easier for me and allowed me to finish much faster. As I fell into a rhythm and knew what information to expect on a patient profile, I occasionally found errors that the counselor could later correct. I was also happy to share a few shortcuts she hadn’t previously used, but was excited to learn and try.

 

 

 

Care Dimensions locations: (Danvers, MA) Kaplan Family Hospice House and Danvers office, serving the Northshore Area (Waltham, MA) Waltham office, serving the Greater Boston area *the Lincoln House will be opening in Waltham this fall!!!

Since my exposure to Care Dimensions staff and volunteers has grown to encompass two offices in the past month, I can more confidently say that people choose to work and volunteer for the organization because they have a real desire to contribute to hospice. Whenever I describe my internship to friends and family, the most common reaction is that the environment must be incredibly depressing. While it’s true that patients and families on hospice can experience a great deal of emotional distress, the nurses, social workers, volunteers, bereavement counselors, and other staff at Care Dimensions are genuine, supportive, and caring resources. During my shifts at the front desk of KFHH, I met and spoke at length with a number of volunteers. They shared the reasons they got into hospice as well as the reasons why they’ve stayed—in some cases, for up to seven years. Many volunteers got involved with Care Dimensions following a personal, positive experience with the hospice and wanted to join the team to give back to other families in a similar way. So I can’t say that my internship with Care Dimensions has been in any way negative, depressing, or intimidating; rather, the people and the cause have inspired and challenged me since day one.

Angela Balcom ’18

Internship Training at Care Dimensions

During February break, I began researching hospice positions around Waltham and, within a week, I received a call back from a volunteer coordinator from Care Dimensions. What I had expected to be an informative conversation about the role of hospice turned into an impromptu interview and an informal offer for a volunteer position. Though I was ecstatic to have a summer job, I was most appreciative

Reading my Volunteer Training Manual

that the volunteer coordinator seemed to understand my fear that I wasn’t ready to visit and form relationships with terminally ill individuals. Since then, I’ve completed six of the eight volunteer trainings she spoke of over the phone, and my confidence has grown with every exercise, Q & A, and guest speaker. All volunteers received a manual covering topics from the role of nurses and social workers to dementia to grief and bereavement. Through the trainings and given resources, I’ve developed a greater understanding of hospice’s mission and of my own contribution toward that mission.

When an individual is admitted to hospice service, it means that two physicians have certified that, if their disease follows a normal course, the patient will likely live no more than six months.  Following admission, the patient and family are assigned a care team comprised of a nurse, a social worker, and a chaplain who will visit regularly. This clinical team is assembled to care for a person medically, emotionally, and psychosocially. As part of my training, I met three people representing each aspect of the team and was struck by their commitment to the service they are trained to provide. As they spoke of their duties, they revealed the enthusiasm for their work that drives them to give the highest quality of care possible. I was also lucky to join Care Dimensions just in time to receive an invitation to their summer volunteer appreciation dinner, during which I met people who contribute a variety of talents to the hospice; I chatted with a volunteer coordinator from Danvers about her five pets, I laughed as a media specialist snapped my photo, I asked a woman a million questions about her therapy dog as I petted the very same dog, and I shared my excitement over joining the volunteer team with a woman who later rose to give a speech and introduce herself as the new CEO and president of Care Dimensions.

As I prepared my application to join the WOW program, I already knew that my responsibilities would include an extensive training, weekly social visits to patients, administrative work, and involvement in the

Token from Volunteer Appreciation Dinner

monthly volunteer support meetings. I knew that the volunteer coordinators were lovely people committed to the hospice cause,but I didn’t know just how much everyone at Care Dimensions values the volunteers. The sincerity they express in their gratitude for our service has been my motivation to finish the assigned readings, travel an hour to Waltham for trainings, and ask tough questions. I’ve learned so much about end-of-life care, and I am eager to begin visiting patients and to share the passion and dedication I’ve seen as characteristic of Care Dimensions. My greatest hope for my role as a volunteer is that I can have a positive impact on people who, as a consequence of their situation, are pulling further away from society, but still deserve awareness and respect from their community in a way that preserves their dignity.