John O’Malley was so impressed and inspired by the hospice nurses who tended to his wife, he abandoned retirement and went back to school to become one.
O’Malley began taking classes to become a nurse just two months after his wife passed away in 2010.
Five years later, O’Malley is dispensing the same compassionate care to dying patients and their families that he received; easing pains both literal and figurative, transforming death from a dark and frightening experience into a peaceful and sometimes even spiritual one.
Many people like O’Malley have been moved by the illness of friends or family to make nursing a career, and many do it as a late or second career, say observers and administrators in the profession. Even so, O’Malley stands out. At 66, he’s been on the job less than two years.
After O’Malley completed the two-year nursing program, he was hired by the same hospital, Gilchrist, where his wife spent her last days. He said he never wanted to work anywhere else.
O’Malley said sometimes it’s tempting to stay past his shift. He normally works three 12-hour shifts a week, and has a short commute from his home. When he leaves the job for the day, he said he always feels like he did something good.
And when the time comes to leave the job for good, he said, “it’ll be because they have a bed here for me.”