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'It's a very emotional process': Chancellor’s Award winner discusses hospice volunteer work

Kristy Strain is shown after receiving the 2018 UW-River Falls Chancellors Award. Submitted photo

UW-River Falls student Kristy Strain had volunteered to help with dementia patients at Hudson Hospital in the past. Later, she wanted to continue volunteering within the health care system, and looked on the UWRF website for volunteer opportunities.

One of those listed was a chance to work as an Allina Health Hospice volunteer.

Strain's grandmother went through hospice care.

"So that was kind of one of my areas of interest," she said. "Eventually, I'd like to run my own hospice or manage a hospice in the long term."

Strain said it's been very "cool" to see part of people's journeys as they go through hospice care.

"It's a very emotional process," she said. "Those people bring a lot of perspective to my life about what's really important and having family that's there for you as well as community that supports you too."

It can be a challenge working in hospice care, Strain said, because most of the people she works with are near death.

"One of my patients actually got taken out of hospice care," she said. "Obviously he still has a few more years to live."

But her first patient had a very quick decline.

"It's very empowering to be welcomed into these families' homes," she said.

Strain said it can also be very rewarding.

"These people have a lot of stories that they want to share and they want to leave a legacy," she said. "I think it's very cool that they can share those things with me. They give me a lot of perspective on things that are important."

Her first hospice patient encouraged her to study abroad, which is advice she's taken. She will study abroad next fall.

"The best part has been getting to just be let into these families," she said. "I've always been really welcomed."

Strain was selected to receive the UWRF Chancellor's Award, which is given to students who demonstrate outstanding service and leadership in the community.

Strain was surprised and grateful to receive the award.

She's studying accounting and management at UWRF, and plans to attend grad school after graduation.

Strain started working with the hospice program in September 2017.

Volunteer Coordinators Ann Lutgen and Judy Plucker who have worked closely with Strain, say she is "pretty amazing."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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