If you have been comforted, guided, assisted, encouraged, or directed to resources during a loved one’s time in our care, you have felt the love and dedication of our social workers.
We have chosen to write about Our Lady of Peace Hospice (OLP) social workers at this time because it’s Social Work Appreciation Month. However, these dedicated people are deserving of daily recognition for the work they do, and the difference they make in the lives of patients and families in their final weeks together.
We recently had the honor of talking with Social Workers Amy Koehler-Killeen, Kelly Pietrzak, and Nikki Hauf, three members of the OLP Social Work Team. Together with Carol Kuisle and Rebecca “Becki” Pedersen,they work to honor the end of life wishes of patients, while also providing support to those who love them. It’s a sacred time and space and navigating through it is made easier with these people at your side.
Amy Koehler-Killeen knew she wanted to be a social worker at age 17. Her decision to do it was encouraged by her grandfather’s hospice social worker at Our Lady of Good Counsel (now Our Lady of Peace Hospice) who pointed out that she was “the peace-keeper in the family.” Amy recalls her grandpa’s passing as her first death experience, and it was peaceful, so after college when a social work job opened up at OLP, Amy knew that’s where she wanted to be. She says, “I like walking beside patients and families, providing comfort, support, and reassurance.
Kelly Pietrzak says she fell into social work by accident in college, and then just before her grandfather passed away in hospice, he said to her, “This is what you should do.” Kelly says, “he was right.” Kelly loves that no day is the same in hospice care, and there are everyday challenges. She also loves meeting patients out in the community, wherever they call home. She says, “We prepare people for the next steps, from facilitating reconciliation with estranged family members to finding homes for cats who will be left behind. She sums it up by saying, “We are who you need us to be when you need us to be it.”
Nikki Hauf always knew she wanted to help people. Her career began in medical social work, but as she learned more about hospice, she was drawn to be a part of it. She says, “We believe our patients are in charge of their hospice journey, and their bodies, so it’s not about following a medical model; it’s about honoring wishes. Time in hospice is sacred, and we bear witness to that.” Nikki thinks it’s common for people to not fully understand the role of a hospice social worker, until they begin to support and empower them. “We are able to show up, be present and objective, and give them a positive death experience.”
Our social work team wants readers to know that they are full of resources and will do their best to grant wishes. Kelly said, “We once made travel arrangements for a patient to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including booking hotels that would accommodate his needs.”
Many thanks to the our OLP Social Workers for your loving care of patients and families.