Hospice Care with Graduate Student Katherine DuPre

February 18, 2016

By David McNamara

By David McNamara

Katherine DuPre represents a noticeable and enviable trend in Charleston – people who are passionate about what they do and love their work. She currently works with a local hospice while completing a Master of Social Work from College of Charleston.

Katherine describes her family and friends as a major influence in her desire to work in palliative health care.

“I knew I wanted to work in geriatrics. My mum was a geriatric nurse so I would go to her nursing home after school every day when I was growing up and spend time with the patients. I also have social worker friends and have always admired what they do.”

However, Katherine’s journey into social work was an unorthodox one involving a three am epiphany while working in the nation’s capital as a local television journalist. Previously majoring in journalism from College of Charleston, Katherine spent six years carving out a successful career in print and television news both locally and in Washington DC.

“I produced on election nights and produced a documentary on the twentieth anniversary of Hurricane Hugo. I got to talk to survivors and let them tell their story about hiding on the roof when the storm hit. They showed me where the shingles are still broken from climbing onto the roof in the middle of the hurricane. And I loved hearing the stories. But I slowly came to realize if I’m going to give something all of my time, all of my energy, all of my creativity then I want it to be something that makes more of a difference in the world. So I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and said I want to be a social worker.”

Katherine attributes her attraction to hospice work to her passion for hearing stories firsthand. While providing social support to people who need it most, she listens to the stories of veterans who have been through life’s hardest challenges.

“They’ve lived sixty, seventy, eighty years on this earth and learnt all of these lessons and met all of these people and had so much love and so much pain, and at the end of their life their circle shrinks down from that huge system of people to a very small circle. And it’s blessing to me to be able to be in that circle.”

Katherine sees her journalistic background ideally suited to preserving the stories of people who have no one else to tell them to, and at the same time hopes to change the stigma of hospice in South Carolina.

”When I tell people that I’m going to be a hospice social worker I can see them recoil because that’s how much of a negative connotation that word can have. Hospice is not a magical place where people die. It is a delivery of health care that focuses on comfort as opposed to aggressive curative care. It takes a really bad thing and makes it a little bit easier. That sounds great to me. But that’s not what people hear. They hear it’s a place where people go to die because the doctors don’t want to deal with them anymore.”

The modesty and dedication of palliative health care workers are a regular source of inspiration in our local community. So it’s not surprising that while facing these challenges in a new career as a social worker, Katherine says she feels almost selfish for wanting to do this work because she loves it so much.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jackie Morfesis February 18, 2016 at 9:43 am

Hospice is not “a place where people go to die because the doctors don’t want to deal with them anymore”. Hospice is the option and sometimes the only option that folks have when dealing with a terminal or catastrophic illness due to many factors, including but not limited to health care coverage. And its a broken system. The illusion is that it is a 24/7 circle of care. Its not. The family member or loved one is the Primary Care Giver. And the level of support that they receive is sorely lacking – thus “caregiver burnout”. It impacts every area of their life. I chose to be my mother’s caregiver during her journey with stage four Glioblastoma Brain Cancer. She lived with me until her passing. Hospice was our option, but as any loved one who journeys as a caregiver can tell you, unless you have serious resources – you do not have the caregiving support your or your loved one truly deserves. And the Social Worker and Chaplain are available but they are not “hands on”. The spiritual and emotional needs of the one receiving care do need to be met – but many times they have their own worship community and it is only a reminder that they are nearing end of life to be visited by clergy outside your parish. Hospice was intended at its inception to be a caring, healing, and holistic approach to those at end of life (I even dislike that language) that Hospice seems to want to always reinforce as if they are no miracles and there is no hope. I was blessed beyond comprehension to care for my mother. It was holy, sacred space. And she passed in peace, not because of the Hospice team, but because I demanded it. Hospice has a very long way to go and especially in becoming what it was originally created and intended to be.

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