For Debbie Cooper, being a nurse isn’t just a job. It’s a commitment to caring and being there for others in their time of need. As a nurse at Hospice Austin, Debbie’s love for nursing and love for people help her serve as a rock for those facing the most difficult of times.
“I love taking care of my patients,” said Debbie Cooper. “I love getting to know them and I love helping them get through whatever they’re going through at the time, and feeling like I’ve done some good.”
Debbie’s co-workers couldn’t agree more.
“Debbie is an excellent nurse,” said Kristin Santiago, one of Debbie’s co-workers. “She spends time with families, teaching them and building their confidence in caring for their loved one, provides emotional support and makes a great effort to build rapport and trust with each patient she encounters.”
Debbie is an excellent teacher to her colleagues as well. She volunteers to train new nurse hires at Hospice Austin, letting each new nurse shadow her for a full six weeks. In addition, each patient at Hospice Austin is served by an interdisciplinary team consisting of a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain, home health aide, and volunteer. Debbie serves as a leader in making sure these teams meet weekly to ensure all patient needs are met. Debbie also reminds the team of the importance of taking time to process the loss of patients they have come to care about.
“Debbie is a wonderful nurse,” said Santiago. “I feel lucky to know her and have the opportunity to work with her on a daily basis.”
Debbie has touched the lives of many people, including Melinda Marble— who has experienced Debbie’s compassion not only as a co-worker, but as a family member of a patient.
“I work for Hospice Austin and knew Debbie Cooper professionally, but it wasn’t until my husband became ill that I experienced her gifts on a personal level,” said Melinda Marble, a co-worker of Debbie’s. “My husband fiercely battled cancer for over a year. When it became obvious that it was a battle he couldn’t win, he said it was time we call Hospice Austin.”
After being assigned as RN case manager, Debbie immediately arranged to have the whole team to come and explain their different roles to Melinda’s husband, and called every day wanting to know how things were going, even on Easter Sunday.
“Debbie always acted like my husband was her only patient,” said Marble. “During her visits, she would lean forward and listen to us intently and ask lots of questions.”
Melinda explained that as her husband’s health declined, Debbie and a nurse named June came to take care of him every day— even helping with him with freshening up and shaving.
“They made him feel so fresh and clean and like he mattered,” said Melinda. “No one treated him like a dying person.”
As Melinda’s husband began to grow weaker, Debbie would sit closer and closer to him during visits, holding his hand and talking to him each day. It’s a memory Melinda looks upon with gratitude.
“We have a haiku at Hospice Austin,” said Marble.
“‘Deep water can drown/ Or support a calm voyage/ Our small boat matters’. Debbie was our boat. And it mattered.”
Debbie has also impacted countless patients, including a woman named Brenda who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2013.
“Many days I couldn’t eat, sleep or do much for myself,” said Brenda. “Debbie worked with me untiringly to get me stronger. I was even able to work part time.”
Debbie’s efforts did not stop there. Later, Brenda once overworked herself and became very ill, and Debbie stayed with her for hours, working with Brenda until she was out of crisis.
“She made extra special effort to check on me even on her personal time to make sure the backup nurse followed through with my care,” said Brenda. “I am now in remission for two months and no longer on Hospice care. I went from three months or less to live to remission from cancer, and I believe God had Debbie there for me to help get me to this place.”
Brenda said she’s very thankful for Debbie’s kindness, compassion and willingness to help push her during her fight against cancer.
“Debbie is kind, caring and VERY knowledgeable about nursing. I remember when the doctors were trying to get me controlled on my pain medication,” said Brenda. “Debbie refused to let me give up because nothing was working right, she made me keep trying until we finally got the right medication combination. Thanks, Debbie.”
For Debbie Cooper, her work all comes down to love.
“If Hospice care is nothing else it is genuine authentic love in action,” said Cooper. “It is also soul shaking and one of the most difficult times that life gives us. It is an honor and privilege to help people at this intimate time in their life.”
As for why she does it, Debbie said it’s a calling.
“I am often asked why I chose Hospice nursing and usually answer that it’s because I feel in my soul it’s what I am supposed to do,” said Cooper.