August 14, 2023

Two JGS Employees Obtain End-of-Life Doula Certification!

Donna McGhee and Diahann Wimmer recently completed the intensive certification necessary to become an end-of-life (EOL) doula. We spoke with Donna and Diahann about their backgrounds, the role of an EOL doula and what it means to each of them to be certified in this area. Both Diahann and Donna became certified through the University of Vermont’s eight week certification program.

According to Donna, an EOL doula assists dying individuals transition from life into death. “The ultimate goal is to ‘have a good death’ free of pain and anxiety as much as is possible,” explained Donna. Diahann echoed that sentiment. “The best way to describe EOL doula work is that we are a companion to a person who is dying as well as provide support to their loved ones through comfort and guidance,” said Diahann. “I see it as someone who walks side by side with a dying person and their family.”

Diahann, who is a hospice and RNCM (nurse case manager) has worked at JGS Lifecare since 2014. Diahann lives in Belchertown with her partner, four children and two rescue dogs. It is a busy household indeed! One of the main reasons Diahann wanted to work in hospice care is because of family experiences. “As a child I was able to spend time with my grandmother as she was passing,” reflected Diahann. “Her death was complicated and an experience I carried w me for a long time. I realized that having hospice services during that difficult time might have made my grandmother’s passing more peaceful.”

After working as a hospice volunteer, Diahann decided to go back to nursing school so she could work in the field. After spending time in both medical and oncology units, Diahann knew she had found her true calling. “I found myself drawn to caring for those who were dying,” explained Diahann. “End-of-life care is a sacred time for both the dying person, their family and loved ones. Just like birth, death can be beautiful,” said Diahann. “This might sound strange to some people, but I feel there is such a thing as a ‘good death’ and I do my best every day to help people have good ones.”

Donna McGhee works as a speech language pathologist at JGS. She grew up in South Hadley and now resides in Northampton with her husband Bill and dog Benjamin. After obtaining an associate degree in nutrition, Donna worked in a dental office for 22 years, returning to Elms college in her 40’s when her two children, Dana, and Owen, were in high school. She received a BA in education, graduating Magna Cum Laude and then enrolled at the University of Massachusetts. It was after she completed an internship in geriatrics that Donna knew she had found her passion. “My favorite thing about working in the hospice industry is the residents,” remarked Donna. “It takes just a few minutes to make a big difference in their day and to bring a smile to their faces.”

For Donna, one of the reasons she decided to train as an EOL doula was personal. “I originally became interested in pursuing EOL doula training when a dear friend of mine and former employee of JGS Lifecare was diagnosed with ALS last year,” explained Donna. “I really wanted to try and help her navigate what was ahead of her.”

“We are so proud of Diahann and Donna,” stated Madeline Presz RN BSN, CHPN, Senior Director of Home and Community Based Services at Legacy Lifecare and JGS Lifecare. “They worked extremely hard to obtain this certification and are valuable members of the hospice team. Congratulations to you both!”