ALAMOSA — Nursing runs in the family for Laura Lewis. The 33-year-old Creede native who recently became Hospice del Valle's executive director entered the field because her grandmother Darlene was a nurse.
"I was one of those weird kids that liked going to the hospital to visit her," said Lewis. "I'm just fascinated by the equipment and it's just kind of always something I felt I would do."
After studying nursing at Trinidad State Junior College in Alamosa, Lewis went back to Creede for four years. Eventually she realized it wasn't for her even though the clinic work provided her with an ample amount of experience.
"I enjoyed it but I don't think I could do it long term. I wanted to do more home health care because it just felt more individualized."
Instead Lewis prefers the more holistic approach of hospice care. "I like that it's focused on comfort and quality," Lewis said. "We're not trying to fix everything." She applied when a fulltime position opened up and has been with the organization for seven years.
When Helen Lester retired as executive director, Lewis' friends and coworkers encouraged her to apply. They saw it as a natural fit since she was previously the patient care coordinator taking referrals and working on quality improvement projects.
At first she was terrified managing the 13-person team but now Lewis is settling in.
"The biggest thing that scared me was the financial part. I'm more comfortable being responsible for someone's life than their money."
Helping her adjust is her online studies at Chamberlain University. Halfway through the school's two-year Bachelor of Science in nursing degree, Lewis finds that it's teaching her a lot of valuable management and leadership skills.
Lewis hopes to use her new position to improve Hospice del Valle. Along with wanting to implement a small inpatient unit, she plans to do more marketing and outreach to erase public misconceptions about palliative care.
She says that they accept people with any terminal illness, not just cancer, and want referrals ideally three months in advance to make the proper arrangements.
"People think they have to be on their deathbed and we just give them morphine," said Lewis. "There's a lot that we do besides just giving pain meds to keep them comfortable. There's so much more."