Friday, January 11, 2013

New State of the Heart Hospice Bereavement Staff Member To Focus on Expanding Grief Support for Patients, Families & Staff

Susan Knouff, a registered nurse with State of the Heart Hospice, has assumed new responsibilities in the non-profit agency’s Bereavement Department. She was recently named Bereavement Support Development Specialist and in that role will seek and initiate new ways that grief support can help patients, families and staff.

“I think we have a wonderful bereavement program in place, but there is always room for improvement,” explained Knouff. “My role is to assess our grief support services, identify areas in need of improvement, and create new programs to make our bereavement services even better.“ All patient families served by State of the Heart are offered grief support from our bereavement team, she added.

Knouff, who lives near Ft. Loramie, worked as a primary nurse for State of the Heart for nearly a year before assuming her new duties. Her association with State of the Heart goes back to 2007 when she became a volunteer, helping with visits to patients. Later, she developed and lead the faith based grief group series “As I Suffer: A 5-Week Spiritual Journey” at area churches.

“Susan brings a background of delivering hands on patient care and family interaction,” stated Traci Straley, Director of Social Services. “Along with this hospice experience, she brings compassion, empathy and a strong belief in her faith. She has a natural ability to relate and interact with those we serve and is a great addition to our bereavement team.”

In addition to working as a nurse at State of the Heart, Knouff was a nurse at the Brethren’s Retirement Community and at Wilson Memorial Hospital. “I have known since my associate nursing program that my passion is service in end-of-life care and grief support.”

On her first day in her new position, she joined other bereavement team members and visited Greenville High School, a day following the deaths of two students in a traffic accident. The hospice team worked with students and staff who were experiencing shock and grief over the loss of the students.

“I spent time with two teens who were friends of the students killed in the accident,” Knouff stated. She said she felt she helped the two grieving teenagers. “At the end of that day, I knew I had found where I am supposed to be in hospice care,” she said.

In addition to expanding grief support services in the community, Knouff is also developing programs to support State of the Heart staff both personally and professionally. “Some people assume that working in hospice care means immunity to the grief experience,” she said. “This is not necessarily true. Our staff needs support.”

To support staff, four quarterly memorial vigils have been initiated at State of the Heart allowing all staff an opportunity to reflect upon those we have served and who have died. The vigils will be held in each of the agencies three offices: Greenville, Coldwater and Portland. “This is a way to offer support to staff and provide an outlet for their own grief,” she explained. Knouff has also partnered with the agency’s social workers to offer compassionate care group meetings eight times per year for clinical staff. “These are the people experiencing loss daily. They deserve additional support and care.”

Knouff earned her associate’s degree at Edison State and her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Kettering College of Medical Arts. Her plans are to pursue a Master’s Degree in either counseling or social work.

“I view my experience as primary nurse for State of the Heart as a stepping stone to my new role in bereavement,” she explained. “I feel the experience has offered me a unique perspective of grief in our clients, families and clinicians.”

State of the Heart Hospice cares for patients and families in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. In addition to Knouff, other members of the bereavement team at the agency are Marlene Black and Darlene Pearson.

State of the Heart offers grief support to all patients and families served and specialists work one on one and in group sessions. Services are provided to both adults and children, and specialists go into area schools to help students who are grieving, or there is an immediate need for help. Each year, Camp BEARable for grieving children is held. There is no cost for any of the grief support services, and the camp is free and is open to any child needing help with their grief, regardless of association with hospice care.

For more information about any of grief support services provided by the agency, call and ask to speak to any of the bereavement team members. Visit the agency on line at

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