Community Nurse Educator Judy Waechter: A Champion Connector
Finding the Perfect Fit
Judy Waechter has never settled for a job that didn’t bring her joy and challenge her to take her skills to the next level. As a nurse, she tirelessly served patients, many with extreme medical conditions such as spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. She took on exciting opportunities in management as a healthcare executive, overseeing the way facilities delivered quality care. But Judy had not yet found the right fit and continued planning her next chapter.
“I had a really nice office and an important name tag, but I was paying other people to take care of health, my yard and my kids I wanted to do these things for myself again and have closer connections with the people around me. For my birthday that year, I resigned.”
From the bedside to the boardroom, Judy’s experiences both as a direct care nurse and administrator inspired her to share her knowledge with other healthcare professionals. She finally found the perfect match as a community nurse educator for Crossroads Hospice, joining the team in 2012.
A Universal Experience, A Sacred Circle
Judy was drawn to hospice care through her experiences as a nurse and supporting family and friends through their losses. “We face difficult realities. As a long-term care nurse, you know that some of the patients who come through your door will do so for the last time. You learn to view the dying process as a universal experience, and how to help both the patient and loved ones process loss.”
There are many delicate situations in hospice, but Judy learned that there are ways to help make them more comfortable for everyone involved. One physician in particular made an impression on the way Judy approaches patient interactions. “He had this fantastic calm about him. When he walked into a room, it was as if he’d finished everything else on his plate for the day and he had as much time that the patient and family needed. There’s a powerful experience there of providing that level of care at that time of life. You want to thank the patient and family for the opportunity to share it.”
Judy has developed an appreciation for the intimacy surrounding the end of life. “When I was in nursing school, you couldn’t graduate without witnessing four live births. Birth is a powerful, joyful time, but there’s sacredness in helping people pass on, which is something we will all do. You are thrust into the innermost personal circles of someone’s life.”
A Community Connector
As a community nurse educator, Judy has merged her love of teaching others with her passion for hospice care. She travels the Kansas City region sharing her expertise about end-of-life care with healthcare professionals and building collaborative partnerships with a variety of community and government organizations to expand educational opportunities. These organizations range from the Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Health, and Gilda’s Club, to area hospitals, nursing facilities and funeral homes.
A dynamic speaker, Judy raises awareness about the benefits of quality end-of-life care and takes the opportunity to dispel misconceptions about hospice. “You don’t have to be actively dying to receive hospice care. Hospice is care of the living. We can help people live longer and better.”
Going the Extra Mile to Give Back
One in four people will need a blood transfusion at some point in their lives. By partnering with the Community Blood Center, Judy shares the importance of giving blood to the patients Crossroads Hospice serves, and the role of healthcare professionals and community members in meeting this need. Judy has championed a quarterly blood drive for Crossroads Hospice staff members, as a way to ‘give back’ to patients and families. “When you give blood, you are doing something tangible to show that you care, and helping to ensure that people are getting the blood they need. Giving blood can also become a part of the grieving process. When you’ve lost someone and an event or holiday comes around that triggers memories of your loved one, you can give blood and make the experience as public or private as you need. It might help with the healing process.”
Though Judy spends most of her time forging relationships with community organizations through Crossroads Hospice, she also devotes her personal time to contributing to several causes, from giving blood to raising funds for cancer research. Some of these organizations include Gilda’s Club, Kansas University Medical Center’s high-risk breast cancer program, and the Vicki Welsh Fund and Carolyn’s Pennies to raise awareness for ovarian cancer.
Judy is happy to have found the right fit with Crossroads Hospice. “Even if I have a long day with multiple speaking engagements, when you know that you’re connecting with people, it’s so energizing. It releases all those happy chemicals in your brain when you do a job and do it well.”