In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

June 8, 2022

Hospice nurse’s experience comes into play in an unexpected way

By In the Loop

When Jane Schleicher left for work one day back in April, her focus was on her patients. An unexpected encounter called on her to use her skills as a hospice nurse in a whole new situation.

There's the right place at the right time, and then there's the right person at the right time.

When Jane Schleicher left for work one day back in April, her focus was on being with her patients and their families at the right time. Schleicher is a hospice nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Waseca, Minnesota, and patient visits were on the agenda for the day.

During the afternoon, while driving between appointments, Schleicher saw someone on the side of the road trying to wave people down. The person was on the sidewalk with a dog, who appeared to be in distress. Schleicher thought the dog might have been hit by a car.

Sheila Eberline had been walking her dog, Sunnie, when the 11-year-old chocolate lab suddenly stopped. "Sheila realized something was wrong," the Mankato Free Press reports. "The Lab swayed when she tried to get up to start walking again."

So Sheila tried to wave down help. As it turned out, she couldn't have flagged down a better person in that moment.

"Hospice nurses work alongside families through the process of losing a loved one. It's a special job requiring special skills, from compassion to strength to perceptiveness," the Free Press notes.

Schleicher quickly realized that Sunnie "appeared to be taking her last breaths."

"I said just keep petting her, telling her you love her," Schleicher tells the Free Press. "It's weird how similar it was to what I do every day with people. Here I was with her and her dog and it's so unexpected."

Unexpected, but not unappreciated.

"The chances of anyone coming along that day, and to have it be a hospice nurse who knew exactly what to do, it was something else," Sheila tells the paper.

Schleicher stayed with the pair as Sunnie took her last breaths. She then accompanied Sheila to a veterinarian's office, where she suggested the staff give Sheila some extra time with Sunnie. She even snapped a picture of Sheila holding Sunnie's paw so Sheila would have the picture as a keepsake.

The two remained in touch after that day, sharing memories and encouragement. Sheila continues to feel fortunate that she had someone with Schleicher's insights and experience to help her through the experience.

"I know what she did for my dog. Imagine what she does for people. It's just a blessing," she tells the Free Press.


Tags: Employee Stories, Jane Schleicher, Mayo Clinic Hospice Program

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