Hospice is a word that should be welcomed and not feared. It is almost certain when you say the word hospice in the community that it is met with fear, uncertainty, and thoughts of immediate death. This is far from the truth. Hospice is an end-of-life concept of care that focuses on comfort, dignity, respect, and quality of life. To understand where the hospice medical concept came from, it is important to understand how and why hospice originated in the United States and the Amarillo community.
The term “hospice” (from the same linguistic root as “hospitality”) can be traced back to medieval times when it referred to a place of shelter and rest for weary or ill travelers on a long journey. The name was first applied to specialized care for dying patients by physician Dame Cicely Saunders, who began her work with the terminally ill in 1948 and eventually went on to create the first modern hospice—St. Christopher’s Hospice—in a residential suburb of London (NHPCO, 2018).
Saunders introduced the idea of specialized care for the dying to the United States during a 1963 visit with Yale University. Her lecture, given to medical students, nurses, social workers, and chaplains about the concept of holistic hospice care, included photos of terminally ill cancer patients and their families, showing the dramatic differences before and after the symptom control care. This lecture launched the following chain of events, which resulted in the development of hospice care as we know it today (NHPCO, 2018).
Hospice care in Amarillo, Texas was born October 10, 1980 by Sister Olivia Prendergast, RN, Chaplain. Sister Olivia was fortunate enough to complete some of her training in London where she met Dr. Cicely Saunders, tour the hospice facility, and talk to hospice patients and their families. This sparked her interested in providing compassionate care to patients at the end of their life. After taking a job at St. Anthony’s hospital in Amarillo, she recognized that a lot of the referrals that they were receiving were patients who needed end-of-life comfort care instead of aggressive medical treatment. In collaboration with St. Anthony’s hospital, a hospice program for patients who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness was created. Sister Olivia burned with a passion to care for the dying, “She Was Hospice” (Prendergast, 2002).
BSA Hospice of the Southwest strives to uphold the values and the concept of care that Sister Olivia was so passionate about. BSA Hospice of the Southwest is comprised of a highly skilled and compassionate team of caregivers that are specifically trained in pain and symptom management. The hospice team includes physicians, nurses, social workers, hospice aides, chaplains, and volunteers who are all focused on giving patients and families in the Texas Panhandle the physical and emotional support needed to have a quality end-of-life experience. (BSA Hospice of the Southwest, 2018).