Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Those of us who are more seasoned as hospice providers, often comment to one another “hospice isn’t what it used to be.”  Usually we are shaking our heads wistfully; sometimes hindsight gives our memories a rosier glow.  Well, it’s not as it used to be.  And it will be different in the future.  Like the rest of healthcare, we will face more chronic illnesses, greater medical complexity in care and treatments, varied cultural values around death and dying, family stresses, and less resources.

Yet I believe wholeheartedly that what we offer and what we do will remain vibrant and valuable. Our challenge is to stay in touch with our roots, our purpose, and have that be the driving force. To quote the Denver Hospice Mission Statement: “To encircle those facing advanced illness with unprecedented levels of comfort, compassion, and expertise.”

To do so with efficiency, we will need to consistently remind one another to shift our perspective and utilize skills with discernment. Often we find ourselves advocating for what we think is best and becoming frustrated as we meet resistance. 

The experience model reminds us to uncover what is hindering the patient/family from identifying and reaching their goals.  Sometimes it is us! We can learn to listen, really listen, to each unique patient/family constellation, allowing what is truly best to unfold and become apparent. Then we step in to support and guide and serve. When our compassion fatigue comes from trying to answer the unanswerable, we will learn to say “I don’t know---but we will walk with you each step of the way.” By taking time for debriefing and extrapolating lessons, particularly from our most challenging situations, we can build resilience, skills and confidence in ourselves and our teams.

As passionate as I am about hospice, I am equally fervent about social workers and recognizing the psychosocial in whole person care.  All members of the team have a role in psychosocial support, just as they do in other aspects of care; we can integrate our interdisciplinary nature so that we blossom and grow as we serve.

Patricia A. Goodwin, ACSW, LCSW, ACHP-SW
Tallahassee, FL

Patricia Goodwin is one of the faculty members for the Psychosocial & Spiritual Care Intensive that is part of NHPCO's new professional development offering, THE INTENSIVES (Oct. 31 to Nov. 2) in Hollywood, Florida.

Register Now: Advance registration ends October 7.

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