Before coming to Rutgers School of Social Work as the Director of Field Education, Renee Michelsen, LCSW, spent five years working in hospice as the Director of Social Work after working in medical social work for many years. Renee?s responsibilities included overseeing the hospice social workers, as well as managing her own caseload. Below is a summary of what Renee shared about seeking employment in hospice.
WHAT DOES SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE IN HOSPICE ENTAIL?
Hospice social work involves working with other disciplines, an aspect that Renee found rewarding as she learned about diseases and medical care. According to Renee, the most difficult aspect of hospice social work was the insurance paperwork and restrictions that limit clients? care options. Renee?s favorite part about hospice was the direct patient care; listening to people and hearing their stories was the most rewarding aspect.
WHAT SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS DOES SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE IN HOSPICE INVOLVE?
Hospice social work requires being comfortable with death, not always an easy task. Renee stresses that a hospice social worker must be comfortable with the physical aspects of dying, such as wounds, pain, bodily functions, tubes, and machines. As she said, "don?t wear dry-clean-only clothes." Additionally, hospice social workers must be able to work independently and in a fast-paced environment. An ability to set boundaries is essential because of the emotional aspects of hospice and the need to make professional, clear decisions when confronted with strong feelings.
WHEN AND HOW SHOULD ONE GO ABOUT FINDING A JOB THROUGH HOSPICE?
For social workers interested in hospice, Renee advises doing a lot of research on different agencies, their mission, and how they function. A job search can be conducted online, with websites including the New York Times, the Star Ledger, NASW Classifieds, and each state?s hospice.org (e.g., http://www.njhospice.org/jobbank.cfm?jobnbr=1036669). Before going on an interview, social workers should know all they can about the agency, especially what a typical workday is like, and if the agency belongs to the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. A license is required for hospices in New Jersey, and most agencies will not hire if the license is still pending, due to Medicare requirements.
WHAT DO HIRING MANAGERS LOOK FOR IN APPLICANTS?
In a cover letter, Renee looks for something that is friendly and brief. In the interview, applicants should be able to talk about their most difficult client situation and how they resolved it, their theoretical perspective, and how they deal with their coworkers. Interview answers should demonstrate an ability to think clearly, answer a complicated question, and tolerate the ambiguity that is often present in hospice social work.