GREENVILLE — Stephanie Crum, Chief Clinical officer for EverHeart Hospice, started her career in nursing in 1994. It was a time when dresses, pantyhose, and white nurses’ caps were still the norm for uniform attire (though they were phasing out due to practical reasons). Nearly 30 years later, Crum now has earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from Ohio University.
It has always been a dream of hers to complete her degree, but as so often is the case, life and kids happened and the timing just wasn’t right.
Her son inspired her to make the leap and finally continue her education. He had recently graduated and had something she wanted to achieve – a degree. Not knowing what was about to shake the globe and the world of healthcare, Crum started her bachelor’s program in 2019.
Completing a college program amid a global pandemic while also working full-time in healthcare was not easy. There were times when weekends were spent completing 12 hours of schoolwork. She was fortunate to be surrounded by people who were supportive and that allowed her to follow through with her dreams.
“Everyone at work was encouraging and my husband helped take care of the load at home so I could focus on what I needed to get done,” she explained.
Even in the hardest times, she kept going. There were times when she took only one class in the semester to stay active in the program if she knew there was a big event or family vacation on the horizon. And there were certainly times she felt like she just wanted to quit. Now that she is on the other end of the program, she does feel she is more well-rounded.
“Looking back in my career, I have been in leadership longer than hands-on care as a nurse. The leadership classes I took through Ohio University have helped me apply different ideas that I may not have already thought of in my leadership roles,” she shared. “But I still hate chemistry as much as I ever did,” she added with a chuckle.
For those involved in the healthcare industry today, the job market has done a complete 180 degree turn from the conditions Crum experienced when she first became a nurse.
“When I first graduated in 1994, you couldn’t find a fulltime job as nurse because the market was so saturated.” The job market described by Crum is a stark contrast to the “Code Red” status that The Ohio Nurses Association has assigned to the nursing shortage in our nation. According to an article published by NPR, nearly a third of nurses are expected to leave the field as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crum recalls the early moments in her career that fueled her passion for nursing and hospice and keep her going every day. Early on, she worked in a nursing home and enjoyed educating patients and families about the changes that a patient experiences through the dying process and helping them be more comfortable.
“As they learned more, you could see them start to relax and understand that what they are seeing is normal,” she recalled. Dying really is simply a part of the circle of life, no matter how much we like to avoid the conversation. It takes a special person to want to work with dying patients, and these experiences in the nursing home influenced Crum’s passion for hospice.
“There wasn’t one particular moment that led to the career change, but rather a culmination of watching my patients and being there for families.”
Crum learned early on the importance of not being too attached to patients when working in hospice.
“Oh sweet Ruby,” she recalled, who was a patient Crum cared for as an aide. “She was very sensitive to smell and could tell if you even switched up your deodorant. She was the sweetest thing ever.”
Ruby died on the first day Crum started training as a nurse. By the look on Crum’s face, reflecting on her journey as a nurse and remembering some of her first patients was a pleasant trip down memory lane. Ruby was a patient truly missed.
In offering advice to new nurses, Crum would remind them of the importance of flexibility and keeping an open mind.
“There’s so much opportunity in the field of nursing and so many areas to find your passion. There is always another opportunity if you aren’t in an area of nursing that you love.” Crum has worked with EverHeart Hospice in a variety of roles for the last 18 years. Today, Crum serves as the Chief Clinical Officer and oversees all aspects of patient care.
EverHeart Hospice (formerly State of the Heart Care) is a non-profit organization offering hospice and palliative care to patients at home since 1981. For more information, visit their website at everhearthospice.org.