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Hospice Volunteers Learn Valuable Life Lessons

FEBRUARY 21, 2001 - Although it may seem that her students are simply answering phones and addressing envelopes at the Spartanburg Hospice Care office, Sherman College Assistant Professor Kelly Miller, D.C., knows the student volunteers are doing much more than that. They are learning the value of personal relationships and gaining an awareness of their community’s needs.

Miller says her students’ volunteer time at Hospice exposes them to a generally geriatric population, a group they may find challenging to deal with as future chiropractors. “Our students need to have a strong understanding of the whole gamut of patients - not just the average person - who might come in to see them after they begin practicing,” she says. “Volunteering at Hospice shows students the importance of having personal relationships with all their patients and gives them a feel for the need in our community.”

Hospice is a concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to patients and their families when a life-limiting illness no longer responds to cure-oriented treatments. Hospice care aims to improve the quality of a patient’s last days by offering comfort and dignity. The program offers a variety of bereavement and counseling services to families before and after a patient’s death.

Elizabeth Dunagin, Facility Hospice Coordinator in Spartanburg, says the student volunteers help out tremendously. “There is a monumental amount of paperwork involved in any health care agency, and volunteers help us keep that paperwork flowing,” she says. “Volunteers also help with our bereavement program by touching base with families and sending cards offering encouragement. Hospice cannot survive without volunteers, and we really appreciate all that Sherman College has done for us.”

I’ve gained a real awareness of end-of-life choices by volunteering at Hospice,” says twelfth-quarter student Tamara Burkhead. “Hospice is about life and not death; it’s about being empowered. Volunteering there has made me more aware of what issues certain patients may have and whom I can talk to for more information. It’s wonderful to interact with people who are so compassionate and caring about how other human beings experience their lives.”

Miller says Hospice has been very receptive to chiropractic philosophy and that Sherman College and Hospice face similar obstacles. “There are parallels in our challenges - we’re both trying to become more widely accepted by the public,” she says.

Miller and Dunagin have talked about working together in the future and offering chiropractic care to Hospice clients.

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