Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Celebrate Social Workers!

by Allie Shukraft

March 2015 marks two events in the world of American hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) social worker: National Social Worker’s Month and the 60th anniversary of the National Association of Social Workers, our largest member organization.   This year’s theme is “social work paves the way for change”.  I love this theme because it brings me back to a conversation with a hospice social worker who told me why he loved his job and that I should become a social worker (I laughed at that point in time . . . little did I know).  He said that patients and families in hospice are making their way through this dark, twisted path in the forest that is illness.  They are lost and confused, and though they want to find a way out, sometimes there is none.  He said his job then was not to shine a light on the path and make it easier, nor was it to show them the way out of the forest.  Rather, it was to walk with them on their journey and be present.

So what paths are we trying to accompany our patients and families on as they navigate? Although our patients and families are each unique, there are some common paths that they may tread upon within palliative and hospice care. Social workers are there to meet the bio-psychosocial-spiritual needs of the patient and family, emphasis on the psychosocial. Yes, what we do overlaps with some of the roles of our other team members (I envision interdisciplinary team roles like a Venn diagram), but a social worker's training is specialized to meet the patients and families where they are and help them determine where they want to go. As part of our Master’s preparation, our ongoing training, and our licensure requirements, we learn about human development, psychological theory, the intricate interactions of the systems in which we operate, and many more specific skills.

On Wednesday night 3/11/15, join me for this week’s #HPM Tweetchat as we take a look at the psychosocial elements of the work we all do through discussion of the following topics:

Topic 1: what are the psychosocial needs of #HPM patients and families/caregivers?

Topic 2: what is the most difficult part of psychosocial care of the #HPM patients and family members?

Topic 3: how can we measure the effectiveness of our teams at meeting these needs of #HPM patients and family members?

Join me @alifrumcally this Wednesday night at 8pm CST to explore the concept of social work and psychosocial needs in HPM.

Special thanks to Lizzy Miles, MA, MSW, LSW and the social workers and chaplain from Carolinas Palliative Care and Hospice Network for their input on these thoughts . . . they are invaluable!

Allie Shukraft, MAT, MSW, LCSWA is a reformed high school English teacher turned pediatric palliative care social worker with Carolinas Healthcare System in Charlotte, NC.  She enjoys spending time with her family and exploring the country whenever she can.  You can find her on Twitter at @alifrumcally

Photo courtesy NASW

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