When she was a little girl, Bobbie Jo Lenahan coaxed her sister to lie on a sofa, filled a baggie with water and food coloring and used yarn and tape to connect her bright-red creation to her sister.
“I always loved taking care of people,” she said, laughing at the memory of the make-believe blood transfusion. “Absolutely, that was always my goal.”
Lenahan, 48, of Lake Ariel, realized her goal first by working as a certified nurses aide while her children were young, then by studying at Penn State University’s Dunmore campus to become a registered nurse.
She found her calling in hospice work, providing care to people in their final stages of life.
To do that kind of work, she said, “I always say you need the ‘hospice heart.’ You need compassion. You need empathy, for the patients and for their families, who are going through a rough time watching their loved ones pass away.”
Lenahan now serves as clinical director for Compassionate Care Hospice in its East Stroudsburg office, sending nurses and nurses aides to visit patients throughout Monroe and Pike counties.
While she loves her job, she admitted she misses the direct contact she had with patients before her promotion.
“I had a little lady — I can’t say her name, of course — she lived alone and had no family. Every time I saw her she’d say, ‘You’re the angel God sent me. You make me feel like I matter, like something more than just an old lady’.”
Asked about her philosophy for providing hospice-style comfort to the dying, Lenahan said, “It sounds terrible, but you want to give them the perfect death, to make sure they’re not suffering. And you’ve got to help the family, too. Show them that their loved one matters.”
To anyone considering nursing as a career, Lenahan offers this encouragement: “Remember, you don’t have to be an A student to become a nurse.”
As you embark on a nursing career, she advises: “Do a year of med/surg (medical/surgical nursing) first — that’s where a lot of stuff happens and you learn all your skills — and then go into a specialized field.”
To anyone considering becoming a hospice nurse, she said, “Some families will think you are wonderful and others will not be happy even if you stand on your head and turn blue. Try not to take it personally, because they’re not angry at at you; they’re angry at what’s going on.”
Lenahan’s job keeps her busy, and when she’s not working, she said, “my spare time is totally my family.” That includes her husband, four sons, “two grandchildren I actually adore and my daughter-in-law — I couldn’t ask for a better one.”
— Mary Therese Biebel