Q&A with Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, Susan Cox, RN, MSN, CHPN speaks with Susan Cox, RN, MSN, CHPN, Chief Clinical Officer for Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro. Susan has more than 30 years of experience in nursing and is the president of the Board of Directors for the National Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association.

Below she explains the differences between hospice and palliative care and how to get started in the career.

Q: What is your current position?

Eight years ago I started with Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro as a home care nurse, and for three years, I did direct patient care and home care. I loved it. It was exactly where I needed to be. After those three years, our organization decided to embark on a new project with a palliative care consultation team in collaboration with the local health system as well as long-term care facilities, and they asked me to consider applying [Short Code Error: type value must be either online or ground]. It's a positive thing.

Q: How do you deal with the deaths of your patients? Many people say they couldn't go into hospice care because it's "too depressing." How do you maintain your sense of joy?

You have to be able to take care of yourself as well. You have to be able to think, "I know my patient is going to die. My goal is to make sure that they are comfortable." Nurses have to know that they need to take time off to be able to take care of themselves. They need to be able to talk through rough cases. We focus quite a bit on compassion, fatigue and self-care and make sure that people are not burning out.

Q: Any other recommendations for aspiring hospice/palliative care professionals?

If your hospital has a hospice or palliative care unit, consider working there for a little while. Consider doing a ride along with a hospice nurse. We've done that before with people who have applied to work for us. We will set them up so they can come along with one of our nurses to see what a typical day is like. Pick up the phone and call somebody at your local hospice. When I came to work for hospice, I will fully admit that I had no idea about everything that hospice did.

I think it's important for schools of nursing to have some type of a course in palliative care. I firmly believe that every nurse provides palliative care no matter where they're working. Every nurse at some time in his or her career deals with someone with a life-limiting illness.