Hospice social workers are a critical part of the interdisciplinary teams that look after people in hospice care. They represent the individual’s and family’s wishes and help enhance their quality of life during this difficult time.
Hospice is a form of palliative care focusing on the support and physical comfort at the end of life. In the United States, this is typically defined as a life expectancy of six months or less.
Hospice care is a very difficult experience, both physically and emotionally, for individuals and their families. Hospice social workers provide much-needed practical, emotional and psychological support.
What Does a Hospice Social Worker Do?
Hospice social workers assist individuals and their caregivers with a wide range of important issues, including symptom management, ethical dilemmas, financial concerns, advance care planning, and grief and bereavement.
When treatment for a terminal illness is no longer an option, individuals and their families face a range of psychological, physical and spiritual stressors.
Social workers on hospice teams typically make an initial psychosocial evaluation, which is critical to determining the best care plan for that individual. This evaluation includes consideration of the person’s spiritual and cultural beliefs so that the social worker can guide the team about what the patient and their family want.
Supporting and Overcoming Challenges
If there are any special challenges or other issues within the family, social workers can put plans in place for interventions, support or resources.
Some of these challenges might include:
- coping with grief and bereavement
- helping children to express their emotions.
- ethical dilemmas such as when to withdraw or withhold treatment
- legal and financial difficulties
Financial concerns are often an issue at the end of life, and social workers can help people navigate the resources available to them, such as life insurance coverage or accessing disability income.
Why You Should Pursue a Career in Hospice Social Work
Hospice social workers assist and support people at the most universally difficult, vulnerable time in their lives: when they face mortality, grief, loss, and bereavement. They witness the struggle to find meaning in the face of terminal illness and death.
While this work can be emotionally challenging, hospice social workers find tremendous satisfaction in knowing that they have done their part to make this time easier and more comfortable for the people they serve.
Hospice social workers are typically highly valued and appreciated by the individuals, families and other service providers they work closely with. Many also enjoy working with an interdisciplinary team in a medical specialty that prioritizes clients’ psychosocial well-being.
Career Outlook for Hospice Social Workers
Hospice social work is one of the many career opportunities in social work for graduates with a social work degree. Those who choose to pursue hospice social work can expect an average salary of $52,611 per year for Social Worker to $57,175 per year for Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
As with most specialties within the field, there is generally a degree requirement for social workers wishing to enter hospice care.
For social workers interested in the palliative or hospice field, education at the Master’s of Social Work (MSW) level is needed. Some positions may accept a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) or equivalent. However, they can also specialize by choosing palliative and hospice settings for practicum work and post-degree practice.
Learn more about finding a career in hospice social work and the other MSW career opportunities available to you today.
For those professionals who have worked in hospice social work or a similar environment, share your story below.