Tami Baumbaugh didn’t know much about hospice until six years ago when her stepfather suffered a debilitating stroke. In the year and three months that he lived, a hospice nurse and home health aide helped Baumbaugh and her mother care for him at home and come to terms with his illness.
“They held our hands, let us vent, cry, scream,” she said. “We probably would have stayed bitter, but they pulled us, changed us, pushed us so that we could provide Dad with the best care. And they helped us cope with grief in a way that was healthy.”
The experience would bring a turning point in Baumbaugh’s nursing career. Until then, she had worked as an intensive-care nurse in a long-term acute hospital in Florida. Her patients had multiple system failures; some were on dialysis. All of them had bed wounds. Machines kept them alive.
After 160 days, because of limits on care, the patients’ loved ones would have to decide whether to send them to a nursing home in another state or to end the life-support measures, Baumbaugh.
But as she shared her hospice experience with co-workers and the hospital’s owners, they began to look for ways to help patients and their families. Eventually, they brought in the services of a hospice agency, and it made such a difference in how families accepted the dying process, she said.
Since 2008, Baumbaugh has been a hospice nurse at agencies in Florida and most recently in Raleigh. And she says coming to work last November as clinical manager at the SECU Hospice House in Smithfield has been a dream come true.
In January 2013, her family moved from Florida to North Carolina so that her husband, Keith, could finish his military career at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
They’ve since bought a house near Atkinson’s Mill so that their younger daughter, Kaselynn, can raise and show animals in the 4-H program. An older daughter, Tiffani, is in college in Florida, and a son, Joseph, is a Marine.
Baumbaugh said she’s been impressed with how everyone on the hospice house staff pitches in to get things done. And she says she’s pleased to be able to work with Dr. Dennis Koffer, the hospice medical director, who has a goal to educate the community and physicians so that patients can get into hospice care sooner.
“I know how successful the hospice house can be,” Baumbaugh said. “There’s no reason why all 18 beds can’t be filled. I’ve seen it happen in other places; I know it can happen here, too.”