Linda VanPortfliet – Social Worker
14 years with Hospice
Before coming to Hospice of Michigan, Linda VanPortfliet worked in oncology at Spectrum Health. When many of her patients became ready for a different approach, VanPortfliet realized that she might be suited for that kind of work, and she really was.
“I’ve always been very impressed with the mission of hospice,” VanPortfliet said. “It can make a huge difference in people’s lives, and family’s lives.
“I’ve done some very rewarding work with a few homeless patients. Hospice helps people at home, no matter how they define home. Typically, people live at a home with a street address or a nursing home, but we’ve had a few patients that don’t have any address.”
VanPortfliet is one of many employees assigned to a patient at hospice.
“Every patient that comes into hospice care, not only is assigned to a nurse, but a home health-aid and a social worker, and a chaplain,” VanPortfliet said. “We work on a interdisciplinary team. The role of the social worker is to help with any social, emotional, psychological stresses or problems related to their hospice care. It involves everything from the coping and transition of hospice care, to planning for end of life arrangements.”
To VanPortfliet, finding meaningful work is all about finding the right connections.
“I think it’s assessing for yourself where you make connections,” VanPortfliet said. “In social work, you make connections with people. But people can make connections with their art, with putting an engine back together and making it run. It’s making connections with your heart.
“Ask yourself regularly: Is the life I’m living meeting what I want my intention to be? If it’s a young person, and they’re on the path to prepare a life for later, but later may never come. It’s about finding joy in where they’re at right now.”
Susan Glover – Social Worker
1st year with Hospice
Hospice care doesn’t end at the death of the patient. Susan Glover is a social worker who is assigned to help with the grieving process.
“After the patient passes away, I get a sense from the team how the family is doing, how the death went, and what kind of needs they will have,” Glover said. “Based on their assessment, I try to contact them within two months. The reason we don’t want to contact them right away, is that they are getting their affairs in order.
“We can follow the family up to 13 months after the patient has passed away. They say the anticipation of the one year mark is very stressful.”
Glover interned at hospice 15 years ago, before moving on to adult social work and adult day care.
“I am coming from a field where we did deal with death and dying,” Glover said. “I came from a for-profit company, and moving to a non-profit has been very good for me. The mission and the values are very different, and that’s what I think drove me back to hospice.”
Glover’s role becomes even more vital after the passing of the patient.
“I just see it more as a continuum of care,” Glover said. “I think sometimes families are kind of at a loss, because there’s been so much care in the home. They might feel abandoned in a sense. I think it’s good to have grief support come in and provide that continuity of care for the family.”
Brian Kyle – Chaplain
Two years with Hospice
Hospice of Michigan Chaplain Brian Kyle was a pastor before becoming a chaplain. When Kyle was 30, he couldn’t have imagined doing what he does today.
“It’s been an interesting transition,” Kyle said. “It’s very different than being a pastor in a church. There’s the whole medical records and medical charting thing. Even when you’re a church pastor, you have a lot of colleagues doing chaplaincy.
“Things shifted with mine and my wife’s lives, I was pastoring for 14 years, and I made a connection through an end of life conference at Calvin and found that there would be an opportunity here at Hospice of Michigan to fill a role like this. I’m glad it came about.”
Kyle usually sees between three and five patients in a day, from Montague, to Holland, to Hastings. Sometimes the patient is in a facility, other times there is a lot of travel time due to meetings and in-home visits.
“I see about 40-50 patients in a month,” Kyle said. “We talk about things like hope, forgiveness, meaning and relatedness. We do a lot with life closure. It’s very important. I try to press meaning into the end of life experience. Many times folks come to the conclusion that they’ve lived their life. They’ve gotten married, had a career, had kids, they’ve done all of those things. They think there isn’t much left. There’s so many connections that can be made. We really try to make some key connections, make finals visits, make a final trip, write letters and make phone calls.”
Despite being a former pastor, Kyle helps families of all faiths with the end of life process.
“We’re very sensitive,” Kyle said. “We had a Bosnian family with a Muslim background … for me to come in, as a Christian pastor, it was somewhat artificial. My place there was to just support them with their involvement with the Bosnian community center and the mosque they’re involved in. It really brought a lot of openness.”
Katherine Morrison – Service Operations Manager
15 years with Hospice
Before Morrison became a hospice employee, she worked as a registered nurse in obstetrics and labor and delivery. Now at Hospice of Michigan, Morrison oversees the clinical staff, as well as business aspects, including budget, supplies, medication costs and patient care.
“I sort of went beginning of life to end of life,” Morrison said. “It was really kind of a cool experience, because when you do labor and delivery, there’s a real process to babies being born, and I learned there’s a real process to how people die.
“Not everyone dies the same way, but the process is pretty predictable. You get a sense of where people are when the end is near.”
For all of Morrison’s patients, the dying process is different. She began working at hospice as a nurse, became a staff educator and a community manager, before filling the role of service operations manager.
“As a nurse, medically looking at the dying process, I look for changes in their physical condition,” Morrison said. “I look for skin color changes, breathing changes, and vital changes, but they also die from a spiritual component, a psychosocial component and also an emotional component. We try to work with them through those things.”
To learn more about Hospice of Michigan’s services, take a look at their website here.