Sue Kensill, RN

Fulfilling her dream: Sue Kensill, Clinical Nurse Manager

Summer 2020

Nursing is something Sue Kensill dreamed about from the minute she graduated from San Jose State with a degree in art and a minor in psychology. 

It took many years for that dream to come true. After working as a massage therapist for 25 years, she returned to school to earn her RN from De Anza College. As part of her training, she shadowed a hospice nurse for a day.

“I didn’t know anything about hospice,” she says. “But I remember listening to Dr. Macchello (now an associate Medical Director with Mission Hospice) discuss a patient with a hospice nurse – they had such a heartfelt approach to caring for the person. That was when I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want to do.’”

Just before she graduated, Sue did a preceptorship with Mission Hospice, and thought it was a great fit for her. The feeling was mutual, and she joined our team on a full-time basis in early 2016. “I love spending time with patients in their homes,” Sue says. “The connection is beyond fulfilling.”

After working directly with patients as a Nurse Case Manager for several years, Sue was promoted to Clinical Nurse Manager. Her focus now is supporting our nurses in whatever way they need. “Sometimes my job is teaching, sometimes it’s following up with the staff at facilities, coordinating team meetings, or helping them problem-solve. Often, it’s just listening to them.”

Helping nurses create connections with families is a critical part of Sue’s role. “It’s important to learn to walk into a room, get a feel for the needs of the patient and family, and then quickly develop a relationship,” she says. “Staying focused on the patient and family is the most important thing. Everything else comes from that.”

Sue’s job also includes working with the rest of the team when a new patient is admitted – coordinating supplies, equipment, and paperwork, and assigning a nurse. “I try to keep the workload balanced among our team,” Sue explains, “and try to keep nurses in the same geographic region. Some patients request a nurse who can speak a specific language, which we accommodate whenever we can.”

Sue says that it’s important for her to care for at least one patient herself, both to stay connected to the work and so that she can better understand what her nurses are experiencing.

Sue admits that the work of a hospice nurse can be unrelenting and stressful, and she savors her down time. She and her partner have started a vegetable garden at their home in San Jose, and she loves to exercise – usually hiking or walking. She also confesses to enjoying the escapism of silly Snapchat videos. But her favorite thing is her family, both human and feline. She is particularly close to her nephew’s four kids, now ages 14-21. “They are the loves of my life,” Sue says.

Of course, safety considerations during the pandemic have changed the ways in which all of us interact, and this includes our care teams. The majority of Mission Hospice visits are now over video or phone, and Sue mourns the loss of in-person connection for the nurses, patients, and families. 

“To not be able to hold someone’s hand – either a new patient or someone with whom you’ve established a relationship – it’s heartbreaking for the nurses. The reason people do this work is to be present with the patient.” But they are learning to connect in new ways, and – as always – Sue and the rest of the team is supporting them. 

“I am always impressed by the heart and the generosity of everybody at Mission Hospice. So much work takes place behind the scenes, allowing our care team to be out there supporting patients and families. I’m so proud to be part of this organization.”  

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