Compassionate Care

For 75 years, Our Lady of Peace Hospice has supported families and patients at the end of life.

Our Lady of Peace was founded in Saint Paul in 1941 by the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, a Catholic order whose work with the sick and dying dates back to 1896. Originally called Our Lady of Good Counsel Home, it was turned over to the Franciscan Health Community in 2009. The hospice offers end-of-life care to children with incurable cancer and to adults with any terminal disease.

Matthew Stafford is the director for the residential hospice at Our Lady of Peace (OLP). He works with a staff of approximately 40 nurses to provide care to patients and to support their families. He says that the fact that there is no charge for care at Our Lady of Peace is not the only thing that sets the organization apart.

“We offer complex symptom management,” Stafford says. Their reputation for palliative care leads doctors and hospitals to refer their “hardest and most difficult” cases to the Saint Paul institution, he adds. But it isn’t just the technical and medical care that gives OLP the special place it holds in the community. There is also a culture of support that Stafford describes as “uplifting for families, patients and staff.”

Family members like Nancy Busse say the care her husband, Garry, received before he died in May 2014 made a memorable difference. “My husband was able to enjoy, really enjoy, his last 16 days on this Earth because he was at Our Lady of Peace,” she says today. “They didn’t just care for his medical needs. They made him feel really special.”

Her family found the staff ready to fill every need, from food that her husband asked for that wasn’t on the menu to new pajamas when he couldn’t wear his own anymore. But it isn’t just the small, thoughtful and practical things that Busse remembers.

“Their doctor sat with me in silence after he told me that Garry would die that day, just stayed with me because he cared,” she says.

Thomas Cassidy is a nurse who has worked at Our Lady of Peace for 28 years. He began while he was still training as a registered nurse and has never considered working anywhere else. He decided to become a nurse in 1984 after caring for his mother when she was dying of cancer. Cassidy went to work at the hospice when it was still Our Lady of Good Counsel and run by the Dominican Sisters. They supported him as he studied to become an RN and even helped pay for his training.

“I think compassion is the most important quality a person needs to be a hospice nurse. I want to treat the patients the way I would want to be treated,” says Cassidy. Nurses at OLP support not just the patient, but the entire family. They may stay in touch with grieving loved ones for as long as a year or more after a patient’s death.

Nancy Busse continues to feel the support and care of the OLP staff. “I am still welcomed with hugs and smiles whenever I visit, almost two and a half years later,” she says. “I will forever be grateful for their care of my beloved husband.”