Hospice nurse in Minnesota says job is a ‘calling’

Amber Harris has a passion for taking care of people near end of their journey

Hospice nurse in Minnesota says job is a ‘calling’

A wide-ranging career in nursing is a “calling” for Amber Harris. The clinical nurse manager at Good Samaritan Society Hospice in Nisswa, Minnesota, has wanted to care for others since she was a teenager.

Inspired at a young age

When she was 19, Amber’s grandfather was battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. While she watched his abilities deteriorate because of the disease, she was in awe of the compassionate care her grandpa received in hospice.

“When he passed away, he waited for me to get there and then mumbled, ‘I love you,’ just before he died. I said that (I loved him). I went outside and he passed away. So that was really special that he waited for me. I always thought it was pretty awesome that he had hospice there to help him through a lot of stuff,” Amber says.

The impact of that moment, along with her faith in God, drives her to serve. Amber is going on 16 years as a nurse. From intensive care units to the emergency room and hospice, she is an experienced caregiver.

“You should care about people. That is what makes you a good nurse,” Amber says.

Life as a hospice nurse

Through Good Samaritan Society Hospice, she is making a difference in the lives of patients and their families, bringing them peace and comfort in their own homes during a difficult time.

“(It’s) really rewarding being able to do that. To manage their health in a way that is totally driven by the patients and their wishes, how they want to die and the things they want to do before they die — I get to help them with that,” Amber says.

In moments of fear and despair, she meets her patients with compassion and a smile.

“Amber has a knack for hospice that is second to none,” Good Samaritan Society Hospice Administrator Travis Weber says. “She uses her knowledge of the industry and her immense people skills to meet and connect with patients and families right where they are at in their hospice journey.”

“I know this sounds really weird but it’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had in my life — to be that support for that family member, for that patient and help them leave this world into the next,” Amber says.

Living in a small community, Amber often cares for people she has known her whole life. She remembers one patient who knew her dad and hadn’t spoken with him in a while.

“I said, ‘Well, let’s call him.’ So, we called my dad, and him and my dad talked for about 25 minutes. For a whole week, that is all he could talk about was how excited he was that he got to talk to my dad,” Amber says.

“She has helped countless clients and family members through their journey and she does so in a way that let’s them all know how important they are,” Travis says.

Relying on faith

Finding the joy and making each day count is not easy. She relies on God to help her find words of comfort for those who are struggling.

“I know my job is a calling, I firmly believe that,” Amber says. “I do not think I could do this without God in my life. There are bad days and there are times that a patient’s death really affects me difficultly. I have to work through that. My faith helps me get through that.”

She wouldn’t have it any other way. She connects with patients and supports them until the end.

“For those that believe in God like I do, I think it’s pretty awesome that I get to help them get there,” Amber says.

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Nursing and Nursing Support, Sanford Stories, Senior Services