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Bravery: Living Outside Your Comfort Zone

Recently, Hospice Austin asked our staff to define what bravery means to them and to give an example of courageous behavior that they’ve witnessed over the past year either from themselves or from others – a patient, patient’s family member or colleague. This response is from Hospice Austin Nurse Jennifer Doherty.

To me, bravery means living outside your comfort zone in order to grow as a person. Whether it be a job change, going back to school, or my favorite hobby of climbing, I always feel like every time I push myself into a state of being scared, I come out a better person with more confidence and knowledge.

I often think about the feeling of fear I have when I’m climbing. I concentrate my focus to just the task at hand (not falling, the next hold), and safety becomes priority. This is not unlike how this past year has been for me – now I just exchange the rope for PPE.  Safety has become priority, but so has seeing patients and making them feel cared for. I especially want the COVID patients I see to know that I can work past my fear and still spend the time needed with them to keep them safe and comfortable.

Jennifer’s Aunt Judith with her mother, Martha

Living outside of a comfort zone is something our patients and families do every single day.  When my aunt was placed on hospice, my mom had to become her caregiver.  My mom didn’t think she could do it. She is a retired accountant with no health care experience, 80 years old, and didn’t think she could handle being a caregiver.  With hospice, she was able to gain the tools needed to care for my aunt until she died, and although she was continuously out of her comfort zone, she did a beautiful job of giving my aunt a comfortable and peaceful death. This is what I see with my visits – family members stepping into new and uncharted roles, and I often see their confidence grow as they learn that they can take this challenge on with our support. They are giving their loved one the greatest gift: a peaceful death surrounded by love.  My mom now lives with the knowledge that she rose to the challenge and gave her sister a loving environment until the very end. Even though she lives out of state, she has connected with Hospice Austin for bereavement assistance and takes the classes/events offered.

When I think of bravery at work, I think of our certified nurse assistants – who truly are the “frontline,” and who are all deserving of a trip to the Bahamas at the very least.  What they do every day is hard work, and COVID has added a layer that has made their work invaluable.

Honestly my goal for 2021 is to take a breath and rest; to savor being IN my comfort zone for just a little while; to maybe exchange climbing for hiking (maybe), to keep educating myself, and just focus on gratitude.


Jennifer Doherty
Hospice Austin RN

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