WESTMINSTER — At Carroll Hospice, Julie Flaherty has found a professional challenge with personal rewards.
"Our job is really a labor of love," she said. "We are there to lighten the load; to give the patients as muchcontrol over their environment as possible.
"We help them, and we have so many warm and wonderful experienceswhere the people we are dealing with are helping us to not fear our own mortality."
Flaherty, 37, of Westminster, was appointed executive director of Carroll Hospice, a private non-profit agency, by its board of directors July 1.
She and her staff of four part-time employees work with trained volunteers to lend physical, emotional and spiritual support to the terminally ill and their families.
"The job has been everything and more than I thought it would be," said Flaherty, who had worked since 1987 as a nursing supervisor in long-term care for Meridian Corp., a health care company in Towson, Baltimore County.
Working with the terminally ill on a day-to-day basis has been unlike any of her previous positions in the medical field, she said. But with a diverse background and a desire to make a difference, she eagerly accepted the challenge Carroll Hospice offered.
"I hadreached a point in my life where I needed to take a new direction away from traditional nursing. I wanted to use all those skills I had learned throughout my 16 years as a nurse.
"Carroll Hospice was theanswer; it addresses all those needs I have," she said.
Flaherty fit the hospice's needs as well.
"What impressed us the most with Julie was her sincerity," said Evelyn Welch, hospice board president,"and the fact that she has a lot of skills which would be beneficialto hospice.
"We felt she was a good public speaker who would convey her message well and help make the community more familiar with hospice. She has a tremendous amount of experience, education and knowledge," Welch said.
Flaherty received her degree in nursing from Southwest Baltimore General Hospital in 1977. Following her graduation she worked in emergency medicine in the Baltimore area for 10 years.
She also worked as a school nurse in Carroll County for three years.
The hospice, at 30 Carroll St., was established in the fall of 1986. The agency cares for 18 to 22 terminally ill patients a month ranging in age from 6 months to 90 years.
"The Carroll Hospice group is a strong network backed by a very dedicated group of nearly 100 volunteers," Flaherty said.
"Our volunteers undergo four months ofextensive training introducing them to the hospice philosophy, practical hospital skills, as well as preparing them to answer some difficult questions they may be asked," she said.
The training is important because staff and volunteers continue to provide bereavement support to families one year after the death of the patient, she said.
Flaherty said she is looking forward to promoting the hospice philosophy of providing patients and their families with support and to expanding programs to meet the needs of the terminally ill in Carroll.
"Currently, we are developing a circle of care that will allow us to have a three-pronged approach to hospice care," she said. "At present we go into the patients' homes providing support to the patient and their families.
"We would like to back that up with two other types of care."
Flaherty is proposing additional hospice services that would include a community-based hospital program and an in-patienthospice.
"We are working with Carroll County General Hospital right now on the community-based hospital program," she said. "What we would like to do is have two designated hospice beds where the nursingstaff caring for these patients would have hospice experience."
Community-based hospital care would benefit patients requiring acute medical attention and care that could not be managed by a family member at home.
"If a patient begins hemorrhaging or has gotten an infection and needs to receive antibiotics, he needs to have his care administered by trained medical personnel," explained Flaherty.
She also is working to develop an in-patient hospice, which would be a three-bed residential-type setting to give patients without a primary care giver the proper attention.
"We are very excited about this aspect. This is so important because we need a primary care giver in thehome so we can do our job. If this isn't the case, traditionally, the patient would be shipped out of the county -- away from his home. By having this program, we can keep the patient in the county."
To operate, the hospice receives a grant from the county and raises money through annual events such as walleyball, golf tournaments and an art auction.
Flaherty is a member of the National Association of Therapists and Counselors, the National Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa. She serves as an executive board member for the Carroll Community Television Guild.
She and her husband Patrick have two children --Kelly, 17, and Zachary, 8.