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Death Doula Global Summit: Barbara Karnes

 Released: 07/10/2024

 Guest: Barbara Karnes RN

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Episode Show Notes

The Vital Role of End-of-Life Doulas

Join us for a profound exploration of the pioneering work of Barbara Karnes in the American Hospice movement. In this episode, Barbara shares her inspiring journey from initial disillusionment with nursing to finding her true calling in hospice care, influenced by legends like Cicely Saunders and Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Beginning her career at the onset of the AIDS epidemic, Barbara recounts her early days volunteering and working at Kansas’ first hospice. Through personal anecdotes and professional insights, she highlights the unique approach of hospice care, which prioritizes a sacred and meaningful end-of-life experience over the traditional medical model that often views death as a failure.

Listen in as we discuss the critical importance of human connection and trust-building in end-of-life care. We explore how simple acts like sharing a cup of coffee with primary caregivers can provide emotional, mental, and spiritual healing that complements the physical care of the patient. The conversation sheds light on the shortcomings of the current hospice system, which often prioritizes physical aspects over emotional support and suffers from frequent nurse rotations. Barbara emphasizes the need for time and presence to build genuine bonds, pointing out the gaps in the mainstream medical system that hinder compassionate care. We also touch on the transformative power of education in end-of-life care, recognizing the impact of well-crafted educational resources.

Finally, we explore the evolving role of end-of-life doulas and the importance of creating sacred, meaningful experiences for those in their final stages of life. Barbara addresses common misconceptions about the dying process and the need for more holistic, personalized approaches that contrast sharply with the mainstream medical focus. We share touching stories, including Oprah Winfrey’s use of Barbara’s hospice book during her mother’s final days, underscoring the universal need for compassionate end-of-life support. Join us as we conclude with insights and blessings for the work being done by death doulas worldwide, celebrating their crucial role in providing comfort and care during such pivotal times.


We dive into:

(02:09 – 03:51) Transition to Hospice Care
(06:46 – 08:41) Evolution of Hospice Care in US
(13:48 – 15:30) Hospice Care Training
(24:32 – 26:02) Hospice and Patient Relationship Bonds
(29:28 – 30:08) End of Life Education Program Importance
(36:57 – 39:08) Improving End-of-Life Support Services
(44:44 – 45:50) Non-Medical Holistic Care for Elders
(48:31 – 52:04) End-of-Life Doula Support and Guidance


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80-90% of a positive end of life depends on these two things:

Knowing the basic skills on how to care for someone at the end of life and planning ahead – and BOTH Doulagivers Institute is giving you for FREE!

Access them Below!


More about what we do at Doulagivers Institute – Click here!

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