In Pittsburgh, over 30 volunteers staff the No One Dies Alone program. Read more about it in this Pittsburgh Catholic article:
If ever an image of love pierces one’s heart, it is probably that of Mary at the cross as her son was dying. At UPMC Mercy, there is a prayerful vigil with the dying in the No One Dies Alone program.
“Only God knows when somebody is going to die. We don’t ever have it that precise. It can be challenging to anticipate the time. The role of this program is to attend the dying while they are here at UPMC Mercy when the family is not available,” said Denise Verosky, director of supportive and palliative care and a registered nurse of 35 years, who introduced the first program in Pittsburgh to the hospital.
In 2008, Verosky became interested in the program after a colleague shared an article on No One Dies Alone in a nursing journal written by the founder, Sandra Clarke, a nurse at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, Ore.
“Sandra’s story inspired me,” Verosky said. “Patients are dying all the time in acute-care hospitals. When a dying patient asked Clarke, ‘Will you stay with me?’ her answer was typical — ‘As soon as I check on all my patients.’ When she came back, his arm was outstretched and he had died.” Clarke went to the ethics committee, wrote a proposal and established No One Dies Alone.
“No nurse wants to abandon a dying person,” Verosky said. “But their job responsibilities pull them away. It’s morally difficult for nurses not to be there.”
While working on a project in palliative care at Edinboro University and performing clinical hours with Mercy Sister Diane Matje, former director of palliative care, Verosky met with the mission council at the hospital to begin the planning process for No One Dies Alone.
Phyllis Grasser, vice president of mission effectiveness and spiritual care, chaired the council and was involved with the implementation and start-up of the program in September 2010. Two additional members were added to the team: Maureen Kurp, a volunteer vigil coordinator, and Camillian Father Albie Schempp, a hospital chaplain.
Currently, 30 volunteers from diverse faiths and backgrounds are “on call” as compassionate companions.
Vigils are not to exceed two to three hours for each companion. So far, some 50 people have been assisted since the program’s inception.
Permission is obtained from family members to provide the program. Volunteers carry a comfort case for use in the patient’s private room that contains flameless candles, rosaries, prayer cards, Bibles and prayer books for different denominations, and an iPod speaker system for instrumental Christian music. There are no efforts to baptize, evangelize or proselytize patients.
The words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta convey the essence of the program: “No one should die alone … Each human should die with the sight of a loving face.”