There’s a well documented nursing shortage in the U.S. When Shelley Henry first started nursing, it was pretty common for one nurse to manage 10 patients. Today, it’s closer to 20.
We tend to think of the nursing shortage as something impacting hospitals and primary care. But the shortage is impacting end of life care, too. Hospices need nurses, and it’s getting harder to find them as demand for hospice and palliative care is growing.
Shelley spent 20 years as a hospice nurse and learned the ins and outs of the business. She saw a problem, and like any smart entrepreneur, came up with a solution: Amity Group.
Amity recruits and supplies nursing staff exclusively to hospices. It’s the only staffing agency of its kind in Louisiana and one of relatively few in the country. Today, Amity serves about 60 clients, most of them independent hospices, with a staff of 22 nurses.
It’s hard to find nurses. Of 20 interviewed, Shelley says she might hire two. She’s passionate about training and workforce development, and posts tips and advice videos for hospice nurses on social media. She also conducts an annual survey of nurses to help advocate for improvements in the healthcare industry.
Shelley was born in Texas, but has called Youngsville home for most of her life.
Standards of care are important in end-of-life businesses. It’s an industry built on empathy and a human touch. That’s no different when you’re dealing with grief, especially when a family loses a pet.
Catherine Lemoine has made a career in animal care and in pet cremation. In 2023, she opened a Pet Passages franchise. Pet Passages provides cremation services, funerals and memorialization for bereaved pet owners. The company organizes private or communal cremations, and puts together online memorials with music, photos and personal messages.
It’s a tough business, Catherine says, but not necessarily because of the subject matter. Families come to her for empathy and a high standard of services. Like hospice nurses, finding good employees who can maintain that level of care in the pet end of life business is the challenge.
Out to Lunch Acadiana was recorded live over lunch at Tsunami Sushi in downtown Lafayette. Photos by Dylan Babineaux.