No One Dies Alone Blog Post

No One Dies Alone

No One Dies Alone Blog Post

Imagine you are a nurse making night rounds. You show up for work and the nurse before you shares that one of the patients in your care tonight will most likely not make it through the evening. He of course is the first patient you visit, and he is alert and aware that he is dying.  He asks you to stay with him and you explain that you will come back and sit with him but first you have to check on the other patients in your care. You begin your evening and make your rounds with each of your patients, and when you return you discover the one patient, who asked for your time as he was dying, passed away.  Alone.

This is exactly what happened to Sandra Clarke, a bedside nurse at Peace Health Sacred Heart Hospital, in Eugene, Oregon.  She was convinced it should never happen again and created the No One Dies Alone (NODA) program which put trained volunteers with patients in the last hours of life.  This program has been implemented in health care facilities around the world.

Sandra Clarke, CCRN, founder of the No One Dies Alone (NODA) in 2001, shares her story that compelled her to begin the NODA volunteer model.

Enter two Mayo Clinic nurses and one Mayo volunteer coordinator who at separate conferences heard Mrs. Clark’s presentation on the No One Dies Alone program. All three knew immediately this program would benefit Mayo Clinic patients who were alone in their last hours of life.

Amanda F. Meyer, R.N., C.N.P., Mayo Clinic, shares a patient stories of how NODA makes a difference to patients and family members.

Nurses Emily Hacker and Amanda Meyers returned to Mayo Clinic as did coordinator Barbara Kermisch filled with enthusiasm and passion. By happenstance they hooked up and the idea of a Mayo Clinic NODA took flight. Forming a steering committee with representatives from nursing administration, nursing education, chaplaincy and Mayo Clinic Hospice created an unstoppable collaboration that saw NODA‘s trained volunteers ready to serve patients starting September 26, 2011!

Vigil companions readily responded to NODA calls when needed, only those calls all had to be made one at a time. Knowing If NODA was to become an institutional resource, passion needed to partner with science and technology to efficiently get companions to the patient bedside in a timely manner.

Finding volunteers and training them turned out to be relatively easy.  What proved difficult was notifying volunteers and letting them know that NODA services were needed.  In 2012, the three applied to the Center for Innovation (CFI) for a CoDE Grant. With the good fortune to be awarded the grant, the NODA steering committee partnered with the staff at CFI to figure out how to have technology surround passion to support the calls for a vigil. A mass notification and self scheduling process was identified and will be in place by January 2014.

The importance of providing companionship and care at the end of life has always been recognized; however, there was no formal process at Mayo Clinic prior to brining NODA to the Rochester campus. “Providing care for our patients at end of life, who don’t have family members present is a gap that needed to be filled,” Kermisch said.  “All companions, if they work for Mayo clinic or come from one of the three adult volunteer programs do so as volunteers, there is no compensation, except for the feelings of fulfillment at being present to honor someone’s’  life and dignify their passing.”

Prior to initiating NODA, it was unknown how many patients at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, were dying alone. The first NODA vigil at Mayo was held on November 5, 2011 and by September 2012, 151 NODA companions participated in 32 patient vigils, providing 415 hours of companionship for dying patients. The average vigil length was 12 hours and 48 minutes. Eighty seven (87) percent of Compassionate Companions (the name for this very special group of volunteers) are Mayo Clinic employees.

“What happened with NODA was a dream come true, but having it come to Mayo is like the perfect dream,” said Sandra Clarke, founder of NODA.

When asked about the future of NODA, Kermisch is quick to point out “As our population ages the needs for No One Dies Alone companions will grow. With the guidance we received from CFI, their toolkit for approaching challenges with innovative thoughts, and the innate goodness of volunteers, that need will be met!”

NODA Steering Committee members have been recognized for Team Excellence and together have achieved Silver Fellow recognition: Adam Holland, MS R.N. NE-BC, Dawn Nelson, R.N., Emily Hacker, RN, Amanda Meyer, R.N. NP, Audrey Lukasak, Chaplain, Susan Pronk, Patti Rankin, and Barbara Kermisch.