As the summer heat began to cast its warm glow, across the country, I, Abby Sauer, boarded a Southwest flight headed for Washington D.C., leaving my quaint little midwestern state behind for the summer. Before this summer, I had never lived anywhere outside Missouri, so why not jump into the deep end, and experience the bustling capital of our nation? Besides, learning how to navigate public transportation is a skill that everyone should have on their resume, right? However, I must admit the metro made me have a new profound appreciation for my car and Midwestern back roads. This summer was filled with incredible memories, new friendships, and many hot summer days spent in business professional clothes, but more importantly, a transformative journey, stepping into the world of end-of-life care as an intern at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). I had the unique opportunity to work with the Veterans Services division along with the wonderful Katherine Kemp and sweet Emily Marge, touching the lives of those who had once served our nation. This internship has been a profound encounter with empathy, compassion, and the indomitable spirit of our veteran community, but also, a forging of relationships among the incredible staff at NHPCO.
From an early age, I have been intrigued by the world of healthcare and medicine, and yet, I failed to realize the crucial role Hospice and Palliative care plays in enhancing the quality of life for patients with serious illnesses. On my second day, I had the opportunity to work alongside dedicated healthcare professionals who are passionate about Hospice Care via Hospice Action Week where I advocated for Hospice and Palliative Care on Capitol Hill alongside Dr. Turski and Dr. Rari, both of whom shared their incredible life stories and work as Hospice physicians. As I sat in those representatives’ and Senators’ offices, I hastily jotted down notes and intently listened to the stories and statistics that these physicians spouted out. Furthermore, during my time at the NHPCO, I had the privilege of interacting with Hospice-Veterans Partnerships, Hospice leaders, and volunteer coordinators (some of whom may have received a email from yours truly :)) All these organizations and people coming from diverse backgrounds across the United States, each carrying out vital work for our Veterans.
One of the most significant lessons I learned during my internship was the importance of empathy in end-of-life care and the ability for people to die with dignity. Understanding and learning about the world of Hospice & Palliative Care allowed me to be more attuned to this realm of healthcare. Whether it was simply compiling a spreadsheet of Veteran-centric organizations for our networking calls or engaging with partners on ELNEC webinar calls, I spent this summer as a part of a cause much greater than myself. No task is too small when helping to better the lives of humans and our Veterans. These small work tasks were more than merely checking the box, but small acts of compassion that are helping to make a difference in the lives of our Veteran patients and their families.
My summer internship at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization’s Veterans Services division has been an unforgettable experience that has shaped my future career aspirations. This internship has left an indelible mark on my heart, inspiring me to continue advocating for palliative care and supporting the brave men and women who have given so much to our nation. As I move forward, I carry with me the lessons learned, knowing that empathy and understanding can make a world of difference in the lives of those we serve. Last, but certainly not least, I extend my deepest gratitude to the staff of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for allowing me onto their staff for the summer. A special thanks to Katherine Kemp and Emily Marge for their constant support and impactful mentoring.