Twinkling Irish eyes, an embracing yet mischievous grin, the deep knowing of a sage and an unmistakable New York accent; combine those qualities with compassion and unwavering hope and you have Joan Thorburn, who has been caring for families in Regional Hospice and Home Care’s (RHHC) community for several decades. First serving as a volunteer nurse in the 1980’s, and later formally joining the nursing staff in 1995, Joan has earned her well-deserved retirement, set for June 17th.
The Road to Regional Hospice
Joan was born in the Bronx and grew up in Manhattan. She was a graduate of St. Jean Baptiste High School for Girls on the Upper East Side and from Saint Vincent’s Hospital School of Nursing in Greenwich Village. After moving to Danbury in 1969, Joan began working at Filosa, followed by a 21-year career at Danbury Hospital where she ultimately became Assistant Director of Nursing. During that time, she earned her BS in Nursing from Western Connecticut State University.
Where She Was Meant to Be
While volunteering as a Nurse at Regional Hospice and Home Care, Joan fell in love with the organization. She realized then that hospice was her calling, but the timing wasn’t quite right. Years later, in August of 1995, a friend told Joan that RHHC had a full-time nursing position available. She stopped by the office to drop off her résumé, was interviewed and hired on the spot. Once on the path she had been drawn to, she never looked back, going on to earn certification in hospice and palliative care nursing, and completing a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care at the Hartford Theological Seminary.
The Face of Hospice
RHHC’s founder, Dr. Robert Kloss, has called Joan the “face of hospice.” It is a well-deserved honor given Joan’s early dedication as a volunteer, longevity as a case manager on staff, steadfast nature throughout the organization’s transitions, and in light of the countless families whose lives she has personally touched. Her tenure and kindness have continued to make her a community hero who can’t go shopping or run errands without bumping into people for whom she has cared. They remember her fondly, forever grateful for the kindness she exhibited in their time of need. She remembers them too as they hold a special place in her heart.
In her earliest days as a volunteer, Joan cared for a forty-year old mom during the day while the woman’s 17-year-old son, her primary caregiver, attended classes so he could graduate from high school. Thirty years later Thorburn still maintains a connection with that boy, who is now a man.
Always Going Above & Beyond
From the letters our agency receives praising Joan’s compassion, to the incalculable times families have publicly thanked her in their loved one’s obituary, it’s clear that families feel her special calling. We also hear from families and clinical staff that Joan has used her personal resources to assist patients who are struggling financially. She does so quietly and humbly, never seeking recognition for these special acts of kindness that go above and beyond. Still, her skills and service are undeniable and as such she has received the Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing, Connecticut’s largest state-wide nursing recognition, along with the Red Cross’s Nan Burney Award.
You Can Never REALLY Retire from a Vocation
Joan’s colleagues and friends – whether recent hires or longtime members of the RHHC family – are already feeling a sense of loss for a special caregiver and mentor who exemplified selfless dedication to dying patients and their families. Likewise, Joan will miss the colleagues that have grown so dear.
“I love the way our clinical staff support each other, learn from each other, and share in each other’s lives. I will miss that as much as I will miss the patients and their families—It’s why I will stay on as a per diem – I’ll always be part of your lives!” Joan explained, further noting, “I am so grateful that Regional Hospice was here for me, and that I could work out the remaining years of my nursing career doing the work that I love.”
“WE are grateful to Joan!” expressed RHHC President & CEO, Cynthia Roy. “She is woven into our history and the exemplary reputation we have in the community. When we hear people talk about hospice angels among us, I know there are generations of families in the area who think of her and her kindness. On so many levels and for so many reasons, I’ll miss seeing Joan on a daily basis, but we’ll be sure to hold her to her promise to stay a part of our RHHC family.”
Thank you Joan, our beautiful nurse and friend—enjoy your quasi-retirement. Regional Hospice will always be your home; you are forever in our hearts!