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Teaching from the heart: A conversation with HopeHealth’s educators

Did you know? HopeHealth provides free, ongoing education for clinicians, patients, caregivers and families.

Today, meet three of the HopeHealth experts who lead these virtual and in-person programs. They each bring unique clinical backgrounds and life experiences to the classroom – but they all share the same passion for teaching.

What led you to HopeHealth, and to teaching about serious illness?

Lindsay Coe, MSW, APHSW-C: I was working my way up the ladder to be a news anchor when I had an epiphany: I wanted to help others in a different way. I stopped my career on a dime. I got my masters in social work, and now manage HopeHealth’s Pediatric Palliative Care program (PediPal) in Massachusetts. Palliative and hospice care for kids is a unique area of knowledge, so training the community was the next natural step. My public speaking background has come in handy.

Deanna Upchurch, MA: I was working as a family therapist and grief support counselor when a former professor called me about a teaching job at a community college. Right away, I loved the combination of counseling and teaching – supporting people goes hand in hand with education. I first came to HopeHealth as part of the grief support and volunteer program. Now I serve as director of Clinical Outreach Services, which includes community education. I still teach at colleges, too.

Lisa Wasson, RN, CHPN, CMDCP: I started at HopeHealth as an admissions nurse, then later became the lead nurse in our referral center. In both jobs, I was training other nurses, but I did it one-on-one. I never thought I would be someone who could stand in front of a class full of people. Then HopeHealth’s director of education asked me to interview for my current role as clinical educator. She believed I could do it, even when I would have never considered it. It turns out that I really enjoy it. Now, my favorite part of teaching is when I’m in front of the class.

What’s unique about HopeHealth’s education programs?

Deanna: You learn about the subject matter from a true expert in the field. Every HopeHealth presenter is teaching about a topic that really means something to them, and that they’ve been part of for many years. I don’t think that happens everywhere. These virtual classes are also live and interactive – they’re not just a recorded webinar. That’s unique. There’s a big difference when you attend a class taught by a live person, who you can ask questions and talk to in real time.

“I want to see the light bulbs. That’s when I know it was a good class.” – Lisa Wasson, RN, CHPN, CMDCP, Clinical educator

What virtual education programs do you currently teach for HopeHealth?

Lindsay: I teach Psychosocial Aspects of Pediatric Hospice, which we offer several times a year. It’s for social workers and other clinicians who care for kids with a life-limiting illness. The resources for these kids are so different than for adults. You always need to know what support is available for their families, and who to call to access it. We go over all that, and talk about other crucial topics – like how to talk to children about their illness, and how to engage the family.

Deanna: In Understanding the Grief Process: The Cumulative Loss of COVID-19, I help healthcare workers process what we’ve all been going through the past couple years. I recently added the “surge capacity” phenomenon, that feeling many people have that they’re done with the pandemic, their cup is running over and they can’t give any more. I’m also teaching The Grief Journey of the Dementia Caregiver. When we name anticipatory grief, validate it, and respond to it, it leads to better caregiving, and better bereavement outcomes for caregivers.

Lisa: I lead virtual education for topics across palliative care, hospice and dementia care. (Check out the full class calendar here.) Courses include everything from general subjects like Hospice: A Special Way of Caring to more specific topics – for example, in Designing Meaningful Dementia Activities, we discuss ways to help patients at every stage of dementia feel included and engaged. As pandemic restrictions ease, I’ll also return to teaching many of these classes in person at healthcare facilities.

Most of HopeHealth’s virtual programs are free for healthcare workers and offer CE credit. Why is that important?

Lisa: There’s so much misunderstanding and fear about end-of-life care, even among healthcare workers. Hospice originated in the ‘70s, and at that time it meant you only had a few days left to live. It’s different now. Hospice services can be provided for months prior to the end of life and greatly improve the quality of a patient’s life. You shouldn’t be afraid of it. It’s a wonderful thing to help more healthcare workers understand that, so they can provide these services to more patients.

At the end of a class, what makes you say “that was a good one.”

Lindsay: Being able to draw on real-life examples. People drown out slides and facts, but the second you say, “for example, this happened to me,” it completely changes their attention. Now they’re listening.

Deanna: When the class becomes a conversation. When people ask questions and want to engage, I can feel that energy. That’s what people are going to remember.

Lisa: Yes! I want to see the light bulbs. I’ve been doing this on Zoom for such a long time now, I feed off people’s reactions even when they’re muted. I can see you smile, laugh, raise your eyebrows, shake your head. I feed off that as a teacher. I know you’re hearing me, you’re learning from me, you’re connecting with the story I told. That’s when I know it was a good class.

This summer, HopeHealth will introduce the Caregiver Confidence Educational Series in English and Spanish. What drove the development of these educational offerings?

Deanna: There can never be enough information out there for caregivers. I’ve had losses as a young person, many over time, and in each instance diving into resources and education about disease process has helped me to be a better caregiver. The more knowledge I had, the more control I felt – not control over the situation, but control over my response, because I understood it better. Education is an anchor. People may be in a place where they need this information. We’re here and we want to offer it to you. Courses in the Caregiver Confidence Series this summer include an introduction to levels of care, advanced directives, and comfort for caregivers.

What do you love about teaching for HopeHealth?

Lindsay: Nothing is more satisfying than giving another person the resources they need. Maybe another social worker takes just one thing out of my presentation, like the suggestion to get a child’s handprint at the end of life. That one activity might be a source of comfort through a family’s grief. That’s impactful. That’s enough.

Deanna: Absolutely. It makes me excited to know that we can give people the information they really need, at a time when they really need it.

Lisa: Agreed. We’re making a difference for more patients, because we’re giving healthcare workers and their caregivers better tools. As a result, patients and families are going to get more support sooner, and more services than they even knew were available. I became a nurse to help patients. I love that I can help even more of them by teaching.

Want to sign up for our professional education or Caregiver Confidence Series? Visit for upcoming courses. For questions, call us at (401) 415-4200 or email

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