The Role of a Hospice Social Worker

Social Workers play a crucial role in providing patients and their families with quality, compassionate care and help bridge the gap between caregivers and doctors. In hospice care, their presence on every care team is very important.

At VITAS Healthcare, the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care, our social workers are vital members of the interdisciplinary team, which is comprised of nurses, physicians, chaplains, volunteers and other specially trained palliative care experts. Their purpose is to assess the psychosocial needs of the patient and family, define social service goals for alleviating any issues that may arise, and provide the counseling and casework required to meet these goals.

The social worker’s evaluation helps make medical care effective and suitable for each unique family. They share their assessments with the rest of the team so that all are aware of each family’s needs and wants. If there are extenuating circumstances or difficulties, emotionally or financially, social workers can assist and provide extra support if needed or suggest beneficial resources.

VITAS’ interdisciplinary team conducts weekly team meetings where they discuss the patient’s plan of care and any necessary adjustments that should be made to accommodate the patient and family’s immediate needs. During these meetings, the social worker’s role is to advocate for the patient and family’s wishes and to ensure that what is outlined during the meeting is carried out. Once the patient passes away, social workers team up with the chaplain to provide bereavement information and resources like grief support groups to help loved ones cope with the loss.

For these reasons and more, each VITAS patient’s interdisciplinary team includes a dedicated social worker who advocates for them and their families. For more information about hospice care, visit www.VITAS.com or call (708) 781-4400.

By Cathy Carlson, RN, VITAS Healthcare General Manager