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National Nurses Week focuses on quality, innovation of care

Date: 5/9/2013

SPRINGFIELD – For East Longmeadow nurse Jane Sonack Bedard, RN, the compassionate care she provided at home for her grandmother set the stage for her to bring that same kind of care to patients as a hospice nurse.

"Hospice didn't exist when my grandmother passed. At the time, we didn't have the medications, services, or use the hospice concept that allowed people to pass comfortably in their own home. I became very interested in hospice as it emerged, because I believe my grandmother died in pain. Once hospice came into being, it definitely influenced my decision to pursue becoming a nurse," Bedard said.

Bedard, a hospice triage nurse at Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice (BVNAH), pursued her passion for nursing at Fitchburg State University and Saint Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Worcester, where she graduated in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in nursing. Before actually going out into the field as a hospice nurse, Bedard first got some training under her belt in various hospitals in the eastern part of the state, later making the change to homecare nursing. She eventually made her way to Springfield in 1984 and to the Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice.

National Nurses Week, May 6 to 12, focuses attention on the nation's largest health care profession and the many ways America's 3.1 million registered nurses like Bedard work to save lives and to improve the health of millions of patients. This year's theme is "Delivering Quality and Innovation in Patient Care."

"I absolutely love being a hospice nurse and consider it a real privilege to be able to go in to people's homes at the end of their life's journey. Patients welcome us into their home and into their family, it's just very rewarding," Bedard said.

How does Bedard deal with the outcomes that accompany being a hospice nurse?

"Sometimes the best way for a hospice nurse to care for a patient is by also taking care of him or herself," Bedard said, something the veteran nurse learned early on in her 38 years of nursing.

"I think that nurses tend to be caregivers to others and not to themselves. It's paramount that we look at our own situations. A lot of nurses tend to give, give, give and they're not good at receiving," she said.

Sponsored by the American Nurses Association, National Nurses Week is devoted to highlighting the many ways in which registered nurses are working to improve health care. Often described as an art and a science, nursing embraces dedicated people with varied interests, strengths and passions because of the many opportunities the profession offers from working in hospitals to school-based clinics to long-term care facilities, as well as many other areas. Also, nurses have many roles from staff nurse to educator to nurse practitioner and nurse researcher.

Ask the East Longmeadow nurse what she most enjoys about nursing, and she'll tell you it's all about assisting patients and their families during a very difficult time in their lives.

"I've done many things in hospice care from case management to quality assurance to clinical reimbursement. But, my favorite part about being a hospice nurse is sitting down and talking with patients and their families. It's very rewarding to teach and guide them through their journey," Bedard said.

National Nurses Week began on May 6, also known as RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, founder of nursing as a modern profession. During the special week, registered nurses throughout the country and at Baystate Health will be honored in several ways, including displays of research conducted by Baystate nurses, a nursing gala and awards ceremony, and various educational activities.

Baystate Medical Center has been re-designated for the second time as a Magnet hospital for excellence in nursing services – a distinction that places the hospital's nursing staff among the finest in the nation. Nationally, only about 6.9 percent of all health care organizations carry Magnet designations.

For more information on the Baystate Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice, visit