• End-of-Life Doula Provides Another Layer of Care in Central Indiana

    October 28, 2019 | Blog
  • Meet Shelley Ross — Connecting medical and emotional support for
    the end-of-life journey.

    Shelley Ross

    Shelley Ross has spent most of her professional life in education — both as teacher and student. Her undergraduate degree in psychology followed by a master’s in health education from prestigious NYU, prepared Ross for a 25-plus year teaching career in health education taking her all over the state of Indiana. More recently, she’s found herself the student. 

    “I loved teaching and the sharing of knowledge,” shares Ross. “But, after caring for a dear friend with breast cancer, I realized that I had a real passion for caregiving and was drawn to the end-of-life process and how support during that time was crucial for the patient and for the family.” 

    Ross took steps toward her career-path change by volunteering for local hospices and by becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) as she began to navigate a career in healthcare. After a google search for open CNA positions led her to Paradigm Health’s website, she was intrigued and impressed by their vision and mission which seemed to align exactly with what Ross was searching for in an employer in the caregiving world.  

    “As a leading Central Indiana hospice care provider, Paradigm Health really does do the right things for patients and families and they do them for the right reasons,” Ross says. “I enjoy seeing patients while I am out on my daily duties as a CNA for Paradigm. Recently, I became aware of a relatively new certified program training end-of-life doulas and I was immediately interested in finding out more. It would mean more education, but that is something I’ve always enjoyed.” 

    An end-of life doula is a nonmedical professional trained to care for a terminally ill person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs during the death process. During her experience caring for her dying friend, Ross knew that this special certification would lead her closer to helping support other patients and families as they navigated the dying process. Her certification, developed by the University of Vermont’s Larner School of Medicine, is focused on training individuals to become a conduit to assist families through the death process. 

    The University of Vermont says: 

    End-of-life doulas complement the care provided by family members and friends, as well as medical, palliative, and hospice professionals, within the settings of hospitals, senior care facilities, and homes. EOL Doulas support clients with individualized, compassionate care in a number of ways, including emotional, spiritual, informational, and physical support, which greatly helps to lower stress levels, aid in comfort, and promote personalized, even positive, dying passages for clients and their loved ones. 

    “The certification class served as a great way for me to embark on a new personal journey too,” says Ross. “I’ve always been engaged with students and sharing knowledge in the classroom but this new caregiving role will allow for me to have a more intimate connection with people and provide care and support including everything from working on a dignity or autobiographical project with the family and patient to connecting and coordinating the medical and emotional support care.” 

    A relatively new concept to hospice care, the addition of Ross as an end-of-life doula fits perfectly into Paradigm Health’s commitment to always go above and beyond when providing care for a patient and their family during the hospice care process. A doula is able to see the overall situation and provide assistance when family members might be overcome with lack of sleep, stress and emotion. “Being able to quickly assess what the patient and the family need is really important. It can be as simple as identifying and encouraging self-care for the family or helping to connect daily resources quickly,” says Ross. 

    Ross completed the certification in mid-October and is ready to get to work in the Central Indiana area with a dedicated vision as an end-of-life doula to open-mindedness, understanding with compassion, and a keen listening ear to allay any distress families may be encountering during their loved ones hospice journey. 

    “The class was so inspirational, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I am excited to be officially certified as an end-of-life doula and I’m looking forward to bringing this new role to my work at Paradigm Health as an option for patients and families to provide connectivity and much-needed support,” shares Ross.  

    With two busy teenagers and a newly found career path, Ross is energized for the future. “I guess once a teacher, always a teacher. This time around, I hope to be teaching folks to lean on me and let me help them figure out what they need help with and then make that happen. I’m going to take this new-found education and help people know they don’t have to go through this process alone. I’ll be there to help.”