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Islands Hospice serves our patients, our families, and our community with a total commitment to excellence in hospice care.

National Nurses Week

Posted on May 11, 2021

Ask the Expert

Dale Kim
This month, we are shinning the spotlight on Dale Kim, a senior nurse on our team.

Happy National Nurses Week to the outstanding Islands Hospice nurses and nurses across the country! To continue our Nurses Week celebration, we wanted to highlight one of our senior nurses and share his journey into hospice nursing. 

Dale Kim, RN, has been an invaluable member of our nurse team for more than eight years. It takes a special kind of person to work in hospice care, and in this spotlight, Dale explains why that is, and why his job is equal parts challenging and rewarding.

Why did you choose a career in nursing, and why Islands Hospice?   

Most of my medical experience was from years of working in acute care settings. However, that all changed one day, after losing my father to a long battle with cancer. I initially applied to Islands Hospice, and gave myself a year to gain as much experience as possible in a hospice setting. That was eight years ago; I’ve grown to love this career and now it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else. I’ve chosen Islands Hospice, because at that time, a good friend of mine was already an employee and had nothing but great things to say about the organization. It was also a relatively small organization at that time, and I wanted to grow with the company.

What was your path to your current role?  

I worked the night shift the first two years at Islands Hospice. I was hired to replace a nurse who was leaving Islands Hospice at that time. I have since moved to the weekend, which is my current position. The duties between these positions are strikingly similar, just different days and working hours.  

What is the best part of your job? 

There are actually two parts to what makes my job the greatest. The first part is the joy you get from helping people in general. Whether it’s as simple as directing people to the right resources to get them the help they need, or a direct hands-on approach to helping our patients, there is no feeling quite like it. The second part that makes my job so great is the opportunity to become a preceptor/mentor to newly hired nurses. It’s quite remarkable to see them transforming from a new nurse into a professional and confident hospice nurse. 

What is the greatest challenge?  

I think the most significant challenge for me personally has been keeping work separate from my personal life. This becomes increasingly harder to accomplish as you spend more time and get to know your patients and their families. Often, I find myself thinking about the sufferings and the hardships that some people go through. When I first started working as a hospice nurse, my inability to find this balance left me emotionally exhausted, but now, I’m better at it.

Tell us about your day-to-day life and tasks.   

My typical workday consists of some visits that are requested from the day before and standing by and responding to crises that pop up during shift. Due to my position as a weekend nurse, I often respond to patients whom I’ve never met before with little to no information about them beforehand. Because of this, I used to think of different scenarios and run them over in my head while driving. Interestingly enough, on arrival, many visits are completely different from what I had envisioned them to be.  

What motivates you or who inspires you?   

What is inspiring to me is seeing people going out of their way to help others and extend their kindness. What used to be a common thing in the past does not seem to be the norm nowadays as we are so caught up in the rat race that we sometimes tend to lose sight of what is essential: compassion and humanity. What motivates me the most at work is when you have provided the best care for a patient and the patient or family lets you know that by a simple thank you. To me, that simple word of appreciation fuels me to keep doing what I’m doing.

What do you like to do outside of work? 

I love the outdoors. I go hiking and running weekly. I also like camping and going on long road trips; I used to do that every opportunity I had living in Alaska. Another passion of mine is planning and managing finances for my friends and family in retirement and stock investments. I’m not a certified financial planner, I do it mainly as a hobby, and I enjoy doing it.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in becoming a nurse for a hospice or long-term care setting?

Working as a hospice nurse has the good and the bad, not much different than any other nursing positions out there. However, I do think that it takes a special kind of person to keep working in the setting of hospice medicine.   

Due to the nature of the work we are involved in, we have to cope with the loss of our patients very frequently. It sometimes feels like I’m on an emotional roller coaster, saying goodbye to patients daily, in some cases, patients whom I’ve just met. Once you can manage your emotions, the rewards you get in return are nothing short of amazing. Being there for a family in times of need, caring for their loved ones who are terminally ill—I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than that.

If I can give a little advice to anyone starting their career in hospice, find outlets to channel out your stress. The stress will build up over time. Don’t keep things cooped up too much. Reach out and share your feelings with people around you. To me, that particular outlet is the great outdoors; it works for me.   

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the IH ohana or your community?  

I want to extend my thanks to all my colleagues and employees at Islands Hospice. I truly feel that it takes special kind of people to work in a hospice setting. If you are constantly looking at your watch, this job is probably not for you unless you are using it to count patients’ respirations. On a more serious note, I hope that some of you will consider a career in hospice, not just as a stepping-stone to something different. Whichever case it may be for you, make the most of your experience while you are here. I can promise you that no other job in the world will fill you with laughter one minute and leave you with tears the very next.