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What is a Hospice Social Worker?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A hospice social worker provides counseling and consulting services for individuals who are nearing the end of their lives. He or she helps families obtain the resources necessary to allow their loved ones to stay in their homes instead of being placed in hospitals or nursing homes. In addition, a hospice social worker aids patients and their families in settling medical bills and making final arrangements. Most hospice social workers are employed by hospitals, government human services agencies, and private companies that specialize in home health care.

Hospice social workers primarily work with elderly people and individuals diagnosed with terminal illnesses, such as cancer. Patients choose to receive hospice care when they no longer want to spend time in hospitals, and would rather approach end of their lives from their own homes without extensive medical intervention. A hospice social worker collaborates with nurses, caregivers, and family members to ensure patients are kept as comfortable as possible.

When a hospice social worker is assigned a new client, he or she usually travels to the patient's home to meet the family and evaluate the situation. The social worker documents information about the patient's condition, his or her needs, and the wishes of the family. He or she arranges for caregiving and nursing services and explains options about paying debts, finalizing wills, and preparing for funeral and burial services.

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The nature of the job means social workers must constantly deal with personal feelings of loss and grief. When a client passes away, a social worker often provides bereavement counseling for friends and family. It can be very difficult to deal with such situations on a frequent basis, and a hospice social worker must be very skilled at consoling grieving parties and managing his or her own emotional condition.

A person who wants to become a hospice social worker usually needs to obtain a degree in social work and pass a licensing examination. Some social workers are able to find jobs with four-year bachelor's degrees, but most students decide to spend an additional two years in school to earn master's degrees. New professionals typically receive additional formal training and work under the supervision of experienced social workers for up to two years. A successful social worker can then take a regional licensing examination to earn the credentials necessary to begin working independently.

With several years of experience and continuing education, a hospice social worker usually has many opportunities for advancement. Skilled social workers often have the chance to become administrators at hospitals or home health care agencies. Professionals who want to keep working directly with clients can decide to pursue nursing degrees. Finally, some social workers return to school to obtain psychologist or counselor credentials so they can open their own private practices.

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