There from the Start: A Hospice Nurse Looks Back

A painting of Dianne Puzycki, RN, hangs in Connecticut Hospice in New Haven.

At age 82, Dianne Puzycki has yet to retire from nursing—she still works the night shift once a week at Connecticut Hospice in Branford, where she’s been employed since the organization’s inception in the 1970s. Founded by Florence Wald, it was the first hospice in the United States.

Puzycki started her career in 1955 at Memorial Hospital in New York City, caring for patients with cancer at a time when death and dying wasn’t openly discussed. “We weren’t allowed to talk about that. It really haunted me for years,” she told AJN in a July profile. Several years later, she encountered two influential women: Dame Cicely Saunders, who founded the first modern hospice, and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who introduced the concept of the five stages of grief in her groundbreaking 1969 book On Death and Dying. Seeing them speak piqued her interest in the hospice movement, and she began volunteering for Connecticut Hospice, which eventually led to a full-time job.

Throughout the decades, says Puzycki, she’s witnessed hospice care constantly change and improve. She recalls that in the past, more patients used to stay up at night, afraid, spending time in a family room near the nurses’ station—but now, “most people sleep at night,” thanks to drugs like lorazepam and haloperidol, which weren’t available in the early years of hospice. “We can [now] get patients into a comfort zone better and easier than we did in the past,” she remarked.

Puzycki also offered words of advice on being a hospice nurse:

“Sometimes [comforting them] is not always about medicine—sometimes it’s just being there, meeting their needs. . . . You have to spend time with patients. You can’t just be abrupt, go in, do what you have to do. Take the time if you think they need you to be there. And sit—even if you just hold their hand until they’re calm.”

For much more on Puzycki’s reflections and memories from her long career, see our July Profiles column, which is free to access.

2017-07-26T09:35:44+00:00 July 26th, 2017|Nursing, nursing career|1 Comment

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Editor, American Journal of Nursing

One Comment

  1. marcia proto July 26, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Wonderful depiction of a nurse’s passion, commitment and impact on patient care!

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