Social Work Helps Guide the Way for Palliative Care and Hospice Services
March 24, 2023
When people think of “social workers” they may think of someone who provides talk therapy, who connects clients with community resources, or who might help create a treatment plan. Social workers do this and more, especially when they are part of an interdisciplinary team like the one at Visiting Nurse Home Care and Hospice of Carroll County and Western Maine (VNHCH). VNHCH routinely provides social work as part of their palliative care and hospice services, at great benefit to their clients, families and caregivers. With March as National Social Work Month, this month VNHCH asked their clinical social worker Rachel Vose, LICSW, to share her insights into her profession.
What is Social Work?
Though it’s demanding work, over 600,000 people chose to dedicate their lives and careers to this field, and its rapid 12% growth rate between 2020 and 2030 means many more will do so, according to a Widener University report. People become social workers because they have a strong desire to help others and make society a better place. Social work is one of the fastest-growing professions in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Rachel Vose, LICSW, explained the unique and multi-faceted role that social work plays at VNHCH.
“My primary role at VNHCH is caring for palliative and hospice patients and their families, which consists of providing guidance and education as patients and their caregivers navigate end-of-life issues. Grief and bereavement, anxiety, and, at times, complicated family dynamics also accompany this phase of life necessitating attention and support. Because I am trained as a clinical social worker, with a background in individual and family therapy, my focus is largely on counseling and providing emotional support, and helping patients identify ways to enjoy the remainder of the time they have to the best of their abilities. As the agency’s Bereavement Coordinator, I also have the added responsibility of supporting families after the death of their loved one.”
The Difference Between Palliative Care and Hospice
Palliative care is both to prevent and relieve pain. This includes the psychosocial, physical and spiritual aspects of care, and alleviating symptoms of the illness. The key part is it can be provided at any point of the illness and can be used alongside curative care.
Hospice, on the other hand, is a form of palliative care with the goal of providing comfort at the end of life. It’s not curative care; when someone has chosen hospice they understand that there are no longer viable treatment options, or they have made the decision to forgo treatment that they feel will negatively impact their quality of life in the time they have remaining. In short, hospice is a philosophy of care focused on helping people find meaning and comfort in their last phase of life.
Interdisciplinary Care Team
Vose continued, “As a palliative and hospice care team (and we are very much a team), our goal is to alleviate stressors associated with a debilitating and/or terminal illness. Though I tend to be more focused on the clinical needs of our patients and families, there is also an extraordinary need for community opportunities and resources to ease a family’s burden.”
“My co-workers Ashlee Chaine, Social Services and Long Term Care coordinator, and Jennifer Robinson, VNHCH Community Liaison, are phenomenal in their abilities to identify needs and connect people with the resources necessary during what is often a very difficult phase of life. Many of our patients who have received skilled or long-term care become palliative and or hospice patients so there is a continuity in the way we provide services.”
“What makes the profession rewarding and challenging,” Vose shared, “is that you are pivoting all the time, trying to provide the appropriate support and resources when they may be in short supply. It requires flexibility and patience from all of us. I think it’s safe to say that this particular work can be hard, but when you are able to make deep connections with people and celebrate their life stories, it is more than worth it.”
Career Advice for Social Workers
Vose describes her career as enriching and one that requires you to be empathic and nimble. “It’s a profession that requires dedication. You have to really want to do this work; but there are so many different arenas in the field of social work, which lends itself to a lot of creativity in job choice. You can pursue research, clinical work, social work policy and advocacy, etc. It’s a wide-open field, which is why people are going into it”.
VNHCH provides social work as part of its palliative care and hospice services. Those interested in learning more about their full range of in-home care services are encouraged to call 603-356-7006 or visit them online at www.VNHCH.org for more information.