There are a number of guidelines that you need to meet before you can work as a hospice social worker. Essentially hospices, facilities that provide end of life care to patients who are dying, employ social workers in addition to their medical staff in order to give their patients guidance on how to settle their estates. In addition the social workers in hospices provide a support function to patients and their families.
Becoming A Hospice Social Worker
To become a hospice social worker there are a number of basic steps that you can follow.
Firstly you need to complete a bachelor’s degree in social work. It is important that the program through which you achieve this qualification is one that is accredited in your state. It is also important that you give this program your all as you will need good grades to get into the master’s program that will certify you.
Secondly you need practical experience through an internship. When you are in your senior year at university you should start interning in order to get a head start. Your university will be able to provide you with the information that you will need regarding the best places to intern as a social worker who wants to focus in hospice social work. The next two steps are:
- Enroll in a master’s degree program that will earn you a Master of Science in Social Work (M.S.W.) degree.
- While you are enrolled in that degree and completing your educational qualification, you should also be interning as a social worker specifically in a hospice setting.
After you have finished your master’s degree program there is still a long way to go. Firstly you need to gain two additional years of experience in a social work setting under the supervision of a licensed social worker. This is in addition to the internships that you have already completed so far.
Got to the website of the Association of Social Work Boards and apply to write the licensing examination to be a hospice social worker in your state. Passing the exam will allow you to apply for jobs at hospices as a professional hospice social worker.
There are a number of roles and duties that a hospice social worker is expected to fulfill, as well as several skills, mostly personality skills, that will help you in your career as a social worker going forward. The job duties of a hospice social worker include:
- Case Management
Case management involves working with a number of different patients at the same time. Because hospice care is end-of-life care you will be responsible for the management of those cases right until their conclusion. In order to achieve this you will need to have an advanced understanding of the particular setting where you are working as well as the various external sources that you will be able to draw on for support. Counseling involves working with the hospice patients who are aware of the fact that they are dying and help them to come to terms with this reality. In addition hospice social workers are responsible for doing bereavement counseling with the families of their patients after their patients have passed away. Practical support is also offered in the form of helping with funeral arrangements and other plans. Everything that you do in the hospice must be carefully documented. This is a major part of your role as a hospice social worker and it cannot be forgotten. In addition to this hospice social workers must have the following skills:
- They must be empathetic
- They must be organized
- They must be caring
- They must be skilled communicators
- They must have a clearly developed understanding of death and dying
Without these skills you will struggle to fulfill your duties as a social worker in a hospice adequately and with ease. If you do not have these skills an alternative career may be more suitable.
Reasons To Become A Hospice Social Worker
Although this is an area of social work that can be emotionally taxing, on the basis that you will be dealing with terminal patients on a daily basis, it can also have emotional rewards, one of the main reasons why it is a popular line of work to choose. In a hospice setting you will be able to make an impact on the lives of others in their last few weeks and months of life. This could be the most important influence they have ever had in their lives. In addition you can have a meaningful impact on the lives of their family members by helping them to get through the situation easily. Because the baby boom generation is reaching old age there are more people in hospice settings than there were in the past. This means that this particular area of social work is expanding in terms of the number of jobs available. In addition this is not usually an employment sector that suffers when the economy takes a hit. Consequently you will have a stable job if you become a hospice social worker. Although your schedule may be tied down to normal Monday to Friday working hours, there are a number of situations in which your working hours could be more flexible. This is true for many social work jobs and therefore a career in this line of work suits an individual who prefers flexibility. In addition you may receive excellent non monetary compensation packages in this line of work, including paid holidays and health insurance benefits that you would not otherwise be able to afford. Social workers often have the opportunity to pursue their education free of charge and are offered many opportunities to do so. In short you could advance your career at no cost to yourself.
Classes And Education
Like with all other social worker jobs you will need to first have a bachelor’s degree in social work as well as a master’s degree specifically in hospice social work in order to be an expert in this line of work. Coursework for hospice social work will be very similar to what you would learn in many other social work courses, but in addition there will be a number of specific topics that will be particularly useful for hospice social worker, including:
- End-of-life counseling
- Estate planning
Additional training can also help you in this career. For example hospice social workers that have some form of medical training are more likely to be hired than those who do not. There are nursing qualifications specifically in hospice nursing that you could earn. Completing a basic certified nursing assistant course or CPR qualification could also help. Earning two qualifications (namely a nursing qualification as well as a social work qualification) will take a long time to do, but in the long run it will be worth it because your job opportunities will be increased markedly.
All hospice social workers must agree to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics and to the NASW Standards of End of Life Care. In addition they need to hold a social worker license. This license must be current and valid and have no limitations on it. Some employers even go so far as to do a background check into your license and determine whether or not there were any misdemeanors in the past before they will consider hiring you. A clean record and a pristine license are generally both requirements for working in a hospice as a social worker with specialty skills in that area.
Employment And Job Outlook
Generally speaking hospice social workers are employed at a hospice. This is the main area where you will find a social worker with a specialization in this area. In addition hospice social workers may travel to the homes of patients who are terminal and speak with their families. In some cases patients in this situation choose to stay at home rather than attend a hospice. In this case the hospice social worker will provide the same service in the patient’s home.
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, social work professions are expected to grow faster than average through 2018. This is thought to be the norm for all social work professions, including hospice social work. In fact it is expected to grow at an impressive rate, namely by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020. This is markedly faster than the average for all occupations, making it one of the jobs that have a more stable outlook. According to another website: “Employment of healthcare social workers is expected to grow by 34 percent, much faster than the average for all occupations. As baby boomers age, they and their families will require help from social workers to find care, which will increase demand for healthcare social workers“. This means that hospice social workers, who are generally considered to be employed as members of the health care profession to a certain degree, will benefit from the aging population in that there will be no shortage of work for them to do for the foreseeable future in the arena of hospice nursing.
In addition to employment as a hospice social worker, you will also have the opportunity to look for jobs in general social work capacities as you will also have basic social working training. This simply means that having a qualification in hospice social work increases your employment opportunities notably.
Salary Of A Hospice Social Worker
On average a hospice social worker can expect to earn something like $33,154 – $57,664 a year. In addition there is the possibility of receiving a bonus in the region of $0.00 – $2,534 a year, bringing the total that you may be eligible to earn to $33,659 – $59,179 a year. The industry that you work in will affect the salary that you are eligible to receive:
- In Hospice Care a hospice social worker could earn $33,495 – $55,007 a year
- In Home Health Care & Hospice Services a hospice social worker could earn $33,654 – $57,428 a year
- In Healthcare a hospice social worker could earn $33,095 – $55,147 a year
- In Medical Services a hospice social worker could earn $33,105 – $56,153 a year
- In Social Work a hospice social worker could earn $29,501 – $48,987 a year
Your gender can also affect your salary. Female social workers make up about 90% of the hospice social worker profession and earn $39,280 – $50,600 while male social workers who only make up 10% of the profession earn slightly more at $40,928 – $53,310 a year.
The level of education that you have achieved in social work is an important indicator of the salary that you can earn:
- With a Master of Social Work (MSW), Social Work (SW) you can earn about $35,883 – $57,010 a year
- With a Bachelor’s Degree you can earn about $29,245 – $50,684 a year
- With a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW / BSocW), Social Work (SW) you can earn about $28,852 – $48,257 a year
Some cities pay better than others. The cities that tend to be more popular in terms of hospice social work are Phoenix in Arizona, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, Houston in Texas, and Atlanta in Georgia.
Working as a hospice social worker can be one of the slightly more depressing areas of social work, so it is important that you take care of yourself and are debriefed frequently so that you do not suffer long term effects from your job. Because you are working with people who are declared to be dying you will meet with death on a daily basis. However, with the right outlook, you can still see this line of work from a positive point of view. Consequently your personality plays a big role in terms of your ability to do this job.