What is a Hospice Social Worker?

A hospice social worker is a type of medical social worker that focuses on caring for clients who are at the end of their lives. This role is integral to the hospice team and to the welfare of the patient. They provide guidance, share resources, act in a supportive role and as a general resource for patients and their families. Keep reading below to learn more about this career path, the duties these social workers perform and what it takes to do well in this field.

About Hospital Social Workers

Hospice social workers possess many of the same qualities and duties as other types of social workers. They provide education, share resources, assist clients in systems navigation, teach skills to overcome specific issues and more. In hospice care, however, there are some specialized areas in which these workers provide service. They help to assess and support the emotional and physical health of medical patients, along with those of their family members. These workers are also uniquely positioned to assist in areas such as navigating emotional distress and meeting the specific needs of dying patients. They are well-equipped to help manage stress and grief. As with other types of social workers, these professionals are also sensitive to the needs of people from diverse backgrounds of all kinds.

End-of-Life Assistance

Clients who are facing death must deal with unique and stressful challenges. A hospice social worker is specifically trained to help their clients to manage these issues, according to the National Association of Social Workers. They're experts in the bereavement process, navigating healthcare systems, life cycle interventions and multidimensional system management, among other specialized issues. These medical social workers must take the time to gain in-depth knowledge of their client and the family with regard to the realm of this difficult stage of life. Issues such as how they feel about end-of-life care, specific concerns regarding death and coping with family member grief are all things the social worker must deal with.

Specific Duties

Hospice social workers have some very specific duties within their job descriptions. Many can be quite emotionally taxing and difficult. One of these is to assist with funeral planning, as this act helps to relieve family burden and ensure patient wishes are taken into consideration. They aid in creating a personalized healthcare plan and communicating those needs to medical staff and families. It is the social worker's job to help patients document their own end-of-life wishes using tools life do not resuscitate orders and advance directives. They help in filling out paperwork for medicare, medicaid and insurance. In addition, hospice workers facilitate working with outside resources like Meals on Wheels, Life Alert or other such agencies. They work specifically with the emotional needs encountered by patients and families during this time, remaining onboard to work with the families after the patient's death.

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Though it can be an emotional and stressful line of work, hospice care is also rewarding and fulfilling for social workers. A hospice social worker does much of the same work as others in their field, with specific tasks to aid patients facing the end of their lives.