A Day in the Life of ....

A Hospice-based Adults Social Worker

Introduction

I’m Allison and I’m a Social Worker within a hospice for adults approaching the end of life as a result of cancer, motor neurone disease, respiratory disease or in some cases aids/HIV. I am employed by the hospice which is a registered charity but some social workers working in hospices are employed by the local authority. The social worker is an essential part of the multi-disciplinary team at the hospice ensuring that services and interventions take account of the whole person as well as their family whatever that means for them.

My daily routine

My day usually starts by checking on any changes in respect of the in patients and the very many people in the community that we support. I will talk to the nurses on the wards and check my e mails and phone calls for updates as we are often the link between health and social care.  I spend 50% of my time in the office/ on the wards accessing support for patients who are to be discharged, providing advice around benefits and providing psycho-social support to patients and their families. The latter can include supporting a parent to make memory boxes for her/his children or sitting in the gardens with a partner of a patient who is struggling to come to terms with his impending death. I also respond to requests from schools for resources that may help in their work with a grieving child.

When out of the office I am supporting patients and their families together as the essential aim is to see whole people living within whole families. I am skilled in family therapy and counselling and this ensures that I provide a systemic approach. I also provide bereavement support to families who have lost a loved one. The combination of skills offered by a specialist palliative care social worker makes a unique contribution to the psychological and social aspects of the multi-disciplinary team.  I may also deliver a talk/teaching session to social workers in other settings or to social work students.

In addition to support from my manager, I am in a unique position as I receive a lot of support from the multi-disciplinary team and I learn a lot from them. The work can be emotionally draining but there is always someone available to de-brief with. People often say that the work must be very depressing but hospice work is not just about dying it’s about supporting people to live their lives despite the end of life diagnosis. This for me is so rewarding.

What would you say to someone considering this type of social work?

I wouldn’t advise newly qualified social workers to enter this specialist area of the work unless she/he had experienced it as an unqualified worker. It would be best to get a couple of years’ experience in a generic setting first to develop and consolidate knowledge and skills. Undertaking some counselling training before would also be very helpful.



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