Going Beyond Just a “Chat with Jayla” Barnes

By Linda Borgstede

Is it experience or genetics that allow Jayla Barnes to love a job that most people would find most difficult?


Jayla Barnes is a palliative nurse practitioner working with patients in palliative care and Community Hospice.  She serves on the board of the Judy Nicholson Kidney Cancer Foundation.


She spent 20 years as a trauma nurse at UF Health, and it was there that she was introduced to hospice care.


“Trauma taught me the beauty of life” she said, “and hospice has taught me the beauty of dying.”


In palliative care, she works with those who have a serious, complex illness.  “I help patients and family navigate the health care system and coordinate community resources such as home care.  Those patients are working through a new diagnosis or trauma and have to learn to live differently.”


With her hospice patients, Barnes helps patients with end-of-life issues, and what she calls “planning the next chapter.”  


With patients in either diagnosis, she is “empowered to help them play a better role in their health’s course – to play an active role, to better verbalize to the medical community and family.”  She takes a lot of the guessing out of it.


She is the daughter of a nurse.  It was her mother’s passion for that work that introduced Barnes to her own calling.  Her close family is another source of support.  “We don’t avoid difficult topics, conversations.  My mom helped with that.”


“I can prevent people from having a bad experience  and that’s rewarding work. I’ve seen bad experiences.  So this is a rewarding piece that has always been there for me.”


It’s a valuable service Barnes brings to patients in palliative or hospice care, but how does she keep such a happy, enthusiastic demeanor.  What is the balance.  


“I have a good balance between my work life and my home life,” she said.  “I believe it is a natural gift or calling.  It’s a cup you must keep refilling.”


As she described, caregivers and families are a large part of her focus.


On Facebook, she said: “People can interact with each other (as well as Barnes). They share what they wish –  prayers, advice on medicines, symptoms.  Such questions as ‘how did you deal with this?’”


The Judy Nicholson Kidney Cancer Foundation first found Barnes when she did a speaking engagement for its audience in 2016.  From there a relationship was built, with growing involvement.


When asked what her escape hatch is, she mentions her grown son, her family, enjoyment of travel.  But she brings it back to her work,  “Work is a huge part of life’s fulfillment for me. You know that old saying: do the work you enjoy and you’ll never work a day in your life.”