Drawn to serving people of all ages, Akron Referral Coordinator Nicole Little joined the Crossroads Hospice team in 2010 after serving as an LPN at area nursing homes and as a part-time nanny.
Nicole’s first personal experience with hospice was negative, as she and her family cared for her grandfather during his final months. “When I met the nurses and aides from Crossroads Hospice while I working in the nursing home, I saw the one-on-one care they provided to patients was different. I wished we had been able to give my grandfather these services, and I wanted to help other families.”
She began with Crossroads as an on-call nurse and gained additional experience as a registration representative, whose role is to educate patients and families about the services Crossroads provides.
When a position for a referral coordinator became available, she knew she was the right fit for the job. “My husband always tells me I can talk to anyone, whether I’m at the laundromat or in line at the grocery store. I love to make other people feel comfortable.”
A Team Effort
Nicole facilitates the hospice admissions process from start to finish. She reaches out to patients and families who have been referred to Crossroads from area hospitals, assisted living and nursing facilities, and also speaks with community members who are inquiring about hospice care.
“Sometimes I’m calling people the day they’ve received a terminal diagnosis,” she explains. “I try to make people comfortable and act like I’ve known them a long time. My nursing background helps me understand diagnoses and answer families’ questions.”
She arranges for a registration representative to visit the patient within hours of the first call to discuss the services Crossroads provides. If fellow staff members are on appointments, Nicole meets with families herself to make sure patients are admitted as quickly as possible. Once the patient and family decides that hospice is right for them, Nicole secures a doctor’s order and medical records, and arranges meetings with families with Crossroads Hospice nurses.
In addition to coordinating the hospice admissions process, Nicole works closely with the marketing team to record the number of referrals and admissions from local doctors, facilities, and consumers, to determine where Crossroads can strengthen its partnerships in the community.
24/7 Commitment to Care
Nicole’s commitment to patients continues far beyond the normal work day. “I take all of my calls throughout the weekend,” she says. “If you called about your father or husband at 8 p.m. on a Friday, you would not want the person on the other end of the line to ask you to wait for a call back until Monday. No matter what day or time it is, helping families quickly is our priority.”
Nicole goes above and beyond to educate families on the benefits of hospice care. “I keep in mind that families are calling us for a reason, even if there is doubt and hesitation about whether Mom ‘looks’ like she is ready for hospice. We provide education about when it’s time to consider hospice and the benefits of this care. We never leave a family hanging.”
Recently, Nicole helped a mother receive hospice services for her 7-year-old child through Crossroads. “I spoke with her for three hours. She wanted to meet with someone that afternoon, so I was there. Typically, I am coordinating these meetings, but if somebody asks us for help right away, we will find someone to meet that need. We are truly putting the needs of patients and families first. I want to do everything I can to make a patient happy, to make their journey more enjoyable with their family.”