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The History of Hospice

The word hospice comes from the Latin word “Hospitium” meaning guest house or hospitality. In medieval times, a hospice was a place for weary travelers to rest while on their journey. In 1948, Dr. Cicely Saunders first used the word “hospice” to describe a special hospital for the terminally ill. Having been a social worker, nurse and physician, Dr. Saunders had returned to medical school to specialize in pain control for the terminally ill. In 1967 she organized and became director of the St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. The goal of the her medical practice was to keep patients active, alert and making decisions about their own care for as long as possible. Dr. Saunders believed that patients who had exhausted curative options were being ignored by their health care providers. She is quoted as saying, “There is never nothing more that can be done.” Her emphasis on comfort-oriented care and pain management, emotional care and spiritual care served to enhance the patients’ quality of life while facing the end of life.

Dr. Saunders introduced her method of specialty care for the dying in the United States  in 1963 in a lecture for nurses, social workers and physicians at Yale University. In her lecture she used case studies and photographs of patients to show the dramatic differences patients experienced before and after symptom and pain control became the primary focus of their care.

Today hospice care is much like it was first envisioned by Dr. Cicely Saunders with the greatest difference being the introduction of home based care versus institutional care for the dying.

Crater Community Hospice was founded in 1995 after the need for hospice services was identified by both John Randolph Hospital in Hopewell and Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg. At that time both facilities were community hospitals and recognized that a community based hospice could better serve the local community and patients throughout the Crater Health District.

Today CCH is the only community-based hospice organization in the region. Our team of hospice professionals (registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, aides,  social workers, and a chaplain) as well as community volunteers, cares for hospice patients in their homes, health care facilities, or in the hospital, helping patients to celebrate life every day.

by Brenda Mitchell,MSN,RN,APHN-BC,CHPN,CHPA
      Executive Director, Crater Community Hospice