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‘I’ve come full circle’: Amy Enright’s journey to become a hospice nurse at Gilchrist Center in Towson

In 2009, Amy Enright’s family was struggling emotionally with the impending death of her father at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. Gilchrist’s team showed warmth and compassion as her father was dying from two forms of cancer. This difficult time inspired Enright to become a hospice nurse, she said.

Enright, 50, remembered nurses, doctors and social workers at Gilchrist comforting her when she was afraid of what was ahead as her father, Charlie Smith, battled lung and esophageal cancer, she said.

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“The hospice nurses would come out and just talk to me and walk me through everything when my mom and my brother mentally couldn’t handle it for more than a couple hours, so they are the reason I got through it and they taught me how to take care of him — it was really an impactful experience on me and I felt like this is what I wanted to do with my life,” Enright said.

Amy Enright with her parents, Susie and Charlie Smith.
Amy Enright with her parents, Susie and Charlie Smith.

One social worker, in particular, encouraged her to talk to her father, saying she would always be grateful for having one final conversation with him before he passed.

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“He said he had a good life, that he was proud of his children and his career, and happy to have met his two grandchildren, she said.

Enright called it the best possible scenario that she could have imagined.

“I don’t want to say it was a beautiful death, but it was a really good experience and if I could pass that on to someone else. … It’s such an important thing to celebrate someone when they’re born, but you should be celebrating and taking care of them when they die too,” she said.

Amy Enright at her nursing school graduation with mom, Susie Smith, in December 2014.
Amy Enright at her nursing school graduation with mom, Susie Smith, in December 2014.

This experience was so meaningful that it inspired her to go to nursing school to become a hospice nurse and help families in similar situations. At the time, Enright was mainly taking care of her two daughters at home, who were 2-years-old and 4-months-old.

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“I went and got my classes that I needed to go to nursing school and later graduated,” she said.

However, just as she earned her nursing license, her mother, Susie Smith, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died 14 days later.

“Again we went with Gilchrist — some of the same social workers were still there and again they were really helpful because my brother just couldn’t handle it,” she said.

After her mom died, she redoubled her efforts to become a hospice nurse. Enright knew she would need experience, so she began working as a cardiac nurse at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

“I would keep applying to Gilchrist, but I never heard anything,” she said.

Last year, she finally received the call and was offered a job as a hospice nurse at Gilchrist. She said it felt like everything had come “full circle.”

Hospice nurse Amy Enright at the Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson on Friday on Oct. 8, 2021.
Hospice nurse Amy Enright at the Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson on Friday on Oct. 8, 2021. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

Since December 2020, Enright has been visiting hospice patients at their homes or residential care facilities as part of the nights, evenings and weekends team.

“When people are going through this experience it’s really frightening, especially if you have never seen somebody die or haven’t been through this process before. It’s a lot more of a spiritual type of nursing,” she said.

Enright is close to finishing her first full year as a hospice nurse at Gilchrist in the Towson unit where both her parents were. She said the work is every bit as fulfilling as she dreamed.

“There are times that are very, very sad, but I can make it easier on the family and patients and help them find joy in small moments,” she said. “I feel like I’m doing something that really matters, and it’s an honor to help walk people through this experience. I’ve come full circle, and I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

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