"My mom was a nurse, and that is where my interest probably began, although I didn't realize early on that one day I would follow in her footsteps," said Merrigan-Manning, who entered the nursing profession later in life.
Merrigan-Manning graduated from Elms College with a bachelor's degree in nursing in 1998 after first attending the former Baystate Medical Center School of Nursing diploma program.
"I am very proud of earning my nursing degree," said Merrigan-Manning, a hospice nurse at the Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice in Springfield.
"Becoming a hospice nurse has been a blessing for me. I work alongside some of the best people in the world ... there's a lot of support for us in the office," she added.
During National Nurses Week, May 6 to 12, the work of America's 3.1 million registered nurses to maintain the health of millions of individuals was celebrated throughout Baystate Health and around the country. This year's theme, "Nurses: Trusted to Care," was designed to raise awareness of the value of nursing the nation's largest health care profession and help educate the public about the role nurses play in meeting the health care needs of a diverse population.
National Nurses Week is devoted to highlighting the many ways in which registered nurses are working to improve health care. From bedside nursing in hospitals and long-term care facilities to the halls of research institutions, the depth and breadth of the nursing profession is meeting the expanding health care needs of American society.
"Being a hospice nurse is the best job in the world, and I couldn't imagine doing anything else. Although my mother was a nurse, what really led me to seek out hospice nursing was the fact that she was able to die at home peacefully, and now I am able to help make that option possible for so many other families," Merrigan-Manning said.
When faced with the professional challenges that accompany hospice nursing, Merrigan-Manning said it is more "about the spirit."
"Hospice nursing can be emotionally draining and you will need grounding in your life. You must have a good balance between life, family and work," she said.
As for the rewards, Merrigan-Manning finds satisfaction in many aspects of her job.
"Nothing compares to walking into a patient's home and seeing the relief on the faces of family members, who are so pleased to be getting help and support in their efforts to provide care at home for a loved one whose life's journey is nearing an end," Merrigan-Manning said.
She said having some life experience behind you is definitely "a plus" for those considering hospice nursing.
"Coming into hospice nursing at a little older age prepared me more to deal with the psycho-social issues that often arise for families," Merrigan-Manning said.
The Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice is committed to providing comfort and support to patients and their loved ones during the final journey of life. The goal of its Hospice program is to help patients and their families achieve the highest quality of living, as well as recognizing dying as a natural process and part of life's continuum.
For more information on Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, visit baystatehealth.org/vna.
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