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Our Stories

Gislene Noel, RN

Gislene Noel, RN, Calvary@Home
Ozanam Hall

Gislene Noel

“Every patient I have ever had has taught me something. My patients teach me humility, and they teach me to be brave in the face of danger.”

Q: What inspired you to become a nurse?

A: I was living in Haiti. My grandma died when I was 16 years old, and I had been her primary caregiver. Just 30 minutes before she passed away, she told me how happy and proud she was of being my Nana and she said, “You are going to become a nurse.” I was extremely close to my Nana so that was profound for me to hear.

I continued my education in Haiti. After high school, I made many attempts to get into nursing school. It was a difficult path to pursue because of the government. In Haiti you need contacts to get into nursing, so I became a grammar school teacher and taught for 10 years.

When I came to America, I pursued my nursing education. I attended nursing school during the day and worked as a home health aide at night for years until I obtained my degree.

Q: What brought you to Calvary?

A: I worked at four different hospice locations over several years. I came to Calvary because I had heard it was the top institution for palliative care. Once I learned of its reputation, I wanted to be a part of this great institution.

During my time at the other facilities, I would see patients at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx and was impressed with how everyone on the staff was so happy and kind. I decided to apply for a part-time position, but Calvary Hospital wanted me to work full time. I took a leap of faith, and it was the best decision I ever made since I started nursing.

My first position with Calvary was working in the home hospice program. I was an on-call nurse after hours. I provided whatever help was needed: death pronouncements, late admission, on-call emergency visits, helping families at home, and more. I provided care in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

It is critical to take meticulous notes when caring for home hospice patients because the rest of the Calvary team–supervisor, home health aide, spiritual care advisor, nurse practitioner, chaplain–all rely on that information to manage their responsibilities for the patients and families. I took that responsibility seriously.

After a few years, I transferred to Ozanam when my supervisor asked me to help out for a couple of weeks. I got along so well with everyone, they asked me if I wanted to stay. I have worked for Ozanam for the past two years, and I really love it. The nurse practitioner and I are responsible for the unit. I set up the care plan and review it with the staff at all times.

Q: Why did you decide to care for people at the end of life?

A: My first job was working in the medical surgical unit at another hospital in the city. One day I got into a conversation with a doctor about the pain medication that had been provided to a patient after surgery. He was only given Tylenol, and I could see he was in agonizing pain. I was advocating for better pain management, and out of frustration the doctor said, “Why don’t you go to hospice since you care so much about pain?”

I believe out of every insult there is truth. If you take the time to listen and see the valuable message, it will change your life. Sometimes an insult is a way of learning something important that requires you to make a change for the better.

Q: Describe the most memorable experience you ever had with a patient or family member at Calvary.

A: Every patient I have ever had has taught me something. My patients teach me humility, and they teach me to be brave in the face of danger. I can’t name a specific patient; all of my patients are memorable. I learn far more from my patients than they learn from me. They teach me how to be courageous and how to be grateful for every breath.

Q: What qualities are essential to be a Calvary nurse?

A: Hospice nurse must empathy, flexibility, interpersonal skills and a lot of stamina. Calvary treats the staff so well; we have nothing else to do but care for the patients and families. We need to have ethical responsibility and problem-solving skills because sometimes we must provide quick resolutions.

We need to educate ourselves and learn something new every day, and we always want to be confident and be truthful. We try to communicate clearly and with compassion. Family members will ask questions, and we need to be honest.

I feel it’s important that I communicate clearly with the families and let them know what will happen. I do a lot of teaching with the families.

As a Calvary nurse, I seek to be patient and present. I share with the patients that I’m going to manage their care and make them feel comfortable, and they don’t have to worry. My message to them at the end of their time is, “You will fall asleep and wake up in God’s arms.”

I love my job. I am at Calvary Hospital, and it’s the greatest place to work. I feel very lucky.