Social workers provide unique knowledge and psychosocial skills for seriously ill patients and their family. Clinicians often collaborate with social workers when caring for seriously ill patients. They have unique education, skills, and training essential to the interdisciplinary provision of holistic, patient-centered care.
Regulations may vary; licensure, certification, or registration is available in many countries. Advanced certification in hospice and palliative social work is also available and requires experience, licensure, commitment to ethical practice, and passing of an evidence-based exam. Most social workers report learning their specialty through interprofessional practice and postgraduate continuing education.
Major social work roles for the seriously ill include providing evidence-based interventions that empower the patient in the context of their health care and family situation, and facilitating a dignified death as defined by the patient. Social workers attend to family dynamics, assess and support coping mechanisms and social determinants of health, identify and facilitate access to resources, and mediate conflicts. Like other members of the palliative care interdisciplinary team, social workers develop expertise relative to the patient situation. Palliative care social workers are often engaged with adjustment to illness, decision-making, and family coping along the illness trajectory. Hospice social workers are focused more specifically on end of life.
See reference for more information, and for understanding the direct and indirect patient care services driven by individualized assessments and care planning needs.
This information is from a high-income country, but it may be also useful for countries in other socioeconomic levels.
Adapted from Middleton A et al. Felton M et al. Role of the hospice and palliative care social worker. Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin. Fast facts and concepts #390. Internet. Accessed on December 27, 2019.