From law to nursing, Stephanie Stewart of Hospice Care in Douglas County has many interests.
No one could ever accuse Stephanie Stewart of being an underachiever.
The new director of Hospice Care in Douglas County has worn many hats since she graduated high school in the small western Kansas town of Stockton: she practiced oil and gas law in Denver, worked as human resource director at hotels across the United States for the Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton hotel chains, volunteered at Kansas City Hospice, served as a nurse at the Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Overland Park and most recently worked in Mission for an agency that does drug and alcohol monitoring for licensed health-care workers with chemical dependencies.
Even with degrees in law, business administration and political science, it's the 1992 degree in nursing she received from Johnson County Community College that focused Stewart's career.
"That background has helped me a great deal, and it's going to help me in my management responsibilities here," Stewart said. "First of all, I've worked in different types of service organizations, and obviously that's what hospice is about when it comes right down to it -- providing a service to people.
"Working with people is what I like to do."
The human relations experience and nursing jobs will help Stewart develop strong relationships with the volunteers, nurses and doctors that work with hospice clients, she said.
"I understand what services nurses here have to provide patients in their homes," she said. "I had a really good experience with the hospice in Kansas City, and have always thought that I'd like to work with hospice as a nurse at some point."
Lee Hough, assistant director of the Visiting Nurses Assn. of Douglas County, said Stewart's varied background helped her land the position, which she began in late December.
"We feel that broad background helps bring so many skills to the position," Hough said. "It's like studying English or Western lit when you get a bachelor's degree. Everything you learn brings more to your work. Certainly working with people and being aware of all the ramifications of what we do will bring a wonderful background to the department."
Care at the end
Hospice Care in Douglas County falls under the management of the Visiting Nurses Assn., but it has a separate budget. Both agencies share space with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department at 336 Mo. All three will move into new quarters this summer at the Lawrence-Douglas County Community Health Facility across the street in the 300 block of Maine.
Hospice cares for terminally ill patients in their own home, and provides specialized care for the patient and families during the
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final months of an illness. While no aggressive treatments are sought, hospice workers coordinate care with primary physicians to manage pain.
"They want to be in their own home. Most people, if they are sick, would prefer to be at home around familiar surroundings and with their families," Stewart said. "Any kind of institution, no matter how much they try, they can't make it home. That's easy to understand."
Social workers meet with family members, and hospice provides bereavement and counseling services long after the patient has died.
Hospice also relies on 40 to 50 volunteers who provide numerous services to the patient and families, including respite care that allows caregivers to run errands or take an afternoon off. Volunteers complete 16 hours of training.
"It's not for everybody, but we're happy to talk to people about this," Stewart said. "Before we ask volunteers to go into someone's home, we want them to feel comfortable with their role, and what they can expect.
"You can also be a volunteer and not go directly into the home; we have a lot of different things we can use volunteers for."
Stewart is replacing Piet Knetsch, who joined Hospice Care in Douglas County as director in the spring of 1997. Knetsch, a former administrator for a Wichita community theater, left to expand his role in local theater productions.
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- For more information on volunteering, call Hospice Care in Douglas County at 749-5006 and ask for the volunteer coordinator.