Susan Sanders may serve as the face of Hospice of Marshall County, but she stumbled into her love for the organization by accident.
Sanders has been HMC's public relations manager for nine years. However, her career began as a registered nurse working in labor and delivery for a hospital. She was soon asked to create a women's services program for the hospital, and became the Director of Children's and Women's Services.
"I was in hog heaven," she said. "I never wanted to do anything else."
But after another company purchased the hospital, her position was eliminated. She said hospital personnel callously broke the bad news to her, but offered her a position in the hospital's home health and hospice agency.
"I went through a grieving process," Sanders said. "It was like they jerked a baby out of my arms, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
She accepted the job and worked as a home-care nurse for the agency for five years.
"It really made me realize I can do something other than just deliver babies," she said "It opened a whole new world in nursing and life, including helping people in their own home. I really found a love for hospice I never realized."
Sanders quickly learned that hospice care is certainly a different world from delivering babies. She said the average length of time a nurse stays in hospice care is about three years, and she was no exception.
"I would never have lasted this long if I had stayed in nursing," she said. "I was not very good at setting boundaries and protecting myself emotionally."
She recalled one particularly family she became very close to and "basically put myself on call for them."
"I was short changing my own family," she said. "After he died, I realized I love hospice, but I have to do something different."
When she later took over as public relations manager for HMC, she "knew it was ordained."
"This is a great fit because I'm still in the hospice world," she said. "It is very interesting because no two days are alike."
In the beginning, she spent her time promoting HMC to hospitals, doctors and referral services. However, today she focuses more on fundraising and community awareness.
"It's important to keep the face of Hospice of Marshall County out there," she said. "But I don't do it by myself. It takes a whole team effort."
Although Sanders said "nothing in nursing school prepared me for this," many of the skills she uses "come naturally" to her, like public speaking.
She and her team spend regular workdays, as well as many after-hours, attending various community events, speaking to organizations, visiting nursing homes and promoting HMC in several other ways.
"Any time I can speak to a group, club or organization, I'm all about it," she said. "That is really the way you help people understand what hospice is all about and how hospice can provide care and provide it with a sense of excellence.
"We try to get people to understand that yes we're a hometown, grassroots organization, but we're a quality organization."
One of Sanders' favorite parts of the job is talking on the radio.
"I don't know why, but I just love being on the radio," she said. "It's so much fun, and it's a great chance for us to get the word out."
However, Sanders said her least favorite part of the job is writing.
"I really was unaware how much writing was required for this," she said. "Especially for Facebook. It was a challenge for me."
She also keeps HMC's Facebook page updated and designs and coordinates the printing and distribution of brochures, fliers and other print material for the organization.
"This is my busiest time of year because of all the fundraisers," she said. "And November because it's National Hospice Month."
Despite the hustle and bustle of her job, Sanders said receiving compliments from members of the community make it all worthwhile.
"That'll keep us going for a long time," she said. "The key is you have to like people and you also have to have passion and believe in what you're doing."
Sanders said she loves her job and doesn't see herself leaving HMC any time soon, but she is "open" to God's leading.
"My intent is to retire here but things change and what's right today may not be right tomorrow," she said. "I'll be sure that I'm called to do it.
"I'll go wherever God intends for me to be, and right now I believe that at Hospice of Marshall County."
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