"Not a standstill place": an interview with retiring Hospice nurse Georgina Freeman

Georgina (Georgie) Freeman, who retires from Victoria Hospice in June, well remembers the day she decided to enter the nursing profession. 

“It was Grade 13, and I was sitting on the lawn outside the school,” she says, “and I said to people, ‘Now, what are you guys doing next year?’”  Somebody mentioned nursing.  “That sounded pretty good,”  Georgie recalls, “So I thought, ‘That’s what I’ll do.’”  That decision set her on a course that led to a mid-career switch, one for which she has always been grateful.

Before nursing at Hospice, Georgie worked in ICU. “ICU is a place of adrenaline rush,” she explains.  “It can be that way at Hospice sometimes, too, but it’s a little more manageable here.  When looking to become a hospice nurse, I considered what I already knew. For instance, I’d been through a lot of deaths in my family, so I thought, ‘OK, I’m at a place in my life where I can do this.’ And so I did. And my entire ‘Victoria nursing career,’ as I call it, has been here at Hospice.”    This is one big reason why retirement from Hospice doesn’t come easy for her. After fifteen years here, Georgie says, she couldn’t just wave and be off. “I just had to write my letter of resignation,” she explains, “which I know is supposed to be a formal business letter.  But I put in something more—about how the personal and professional growth opportunities here have been phenomenal for me. I feel so fortunate,” she smiles. “It is very welcoming and supportive.” She has also enjoyed the dynamic nature of Victoria Hospice, reflecting the ebb and flow of life itself. “It changes repeatedly,” she explains. “It is not a standstill place.  Victoria Hospice plays a leading role in the palliative care community, so we’re always changing and looking forward.” 

Direct experience of caring for dying family members was what turned Georgie toward nursing at Hospice, and in her work here she has always appreciated the value of lessons learned—life experience which, as she says, is just as valuable to her work as her nurse training. “It’s not related to how old you are,” she says, when asked what advice she would give to somebody who might consider whether to go into hospice nursing. “It’s related to how much you’ve learned from life and applied that experience,” Georgie adds.  “And working here at Hospice, you bring both life skills and professional skills to bear on everything you do.”  Another skill Georgie considers indispensable is learning how to not carry your work home with you.  “It’s hard not to,” she says. “But you have to find that balance in life. Some may react by succumbing to the emotions, some by stamping them down. Neither is good for you as a nurse or for the people you’re helping. Balance is the key.”  She smiles again as she adds, “I bet you one of the things that most people take away from working here, in whatever capacity that is, is that life is precious.  You come to value life more.  And so when you work here, helping people, you need to learn how to help yourself, allow yourself to enjoy life.  Because it’s true—life is precious.”

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