March is Social Work Month. This time is set aside every year to recognize the contributions Social Workers make to society. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are celebrating the month with the theme of “Social Workers Stand Up”. The NASW says, “Social workers stand up for millions of people every day. These include people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, our veterans, children, families and communities.”
The NASW’s mission is to educate the public on what Social Workers really do in Healthcare, Schools and Social Service organizations. It’s often a question we get as well…What do, Hospice Social Workers really do? It’s an understandable question. It’s easy to identify what doctors, nurses, chaplains and volunteers accomplish on a Hospice Care Team.
Social work services are provided to assist patients and their families as they cope with the challenges dealing with a terminal illness. Social workers can facilitate end-of-life decision-making and communication regarding preferences for goals of care, advocacy and referral to access needed community resources (such as financial assistance due to job loss with illness, or legal assistance to establish guardianship for children). In addition, Hospice social workers provide counseling support for anticipatory grief and mental health needs, problem-solving for issues of safety and demands of caregiving, crisis intervention related to complex familial relationships that may be exacerbated in a time of stress, and management of pain and suffering by encouraging expression and processing of concerns for fears. The role of the Hospice social worker is to honor diversity and unique experiences and needs of each individual. Our social workers encourage hope saying final goodbyes by facilitating life review and legacy making to honor the life of the Hospice patient.
We often get compliments from families who are amazed at how their social worker helped them navigate the confusing healthcare system their loved one was just released from. It’s hard to believe that people still downplay or misunderstand how social workers are contributing to the lives of many Americans. We agree with the NASW that social workers stand up for all of us. While they are standing this month, they should also take a bow and be congratulated on a job well done.