National Social Workers Month is in March

By: Melinda Young, KCH Social Worker
Published: March 28, 2023

As a hospice social worker, my job is sometimes a mystery to those I encounter. People know of social workers as advocates, helping protect children from abuse. They might have experienced a social worker at a hospital, or a nursing home. To many, however, our role in hospice is a mystery. Recently, I was met in the driveway of a new patient’s home by his wife. “Why exactly is a social worker here to see us? My son is concerned and wants to know if you work for the government.” That question was a first for me, and a reminder that the social work role is one with many different perceptions among the public.

Melinda Young, KCH Social Worker.

There are social workers throughout Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care (KCH) – in the field (which means in patients’ homes), in long term care facilities, in the Carousel program for children and families, at both of the KCH hospice houses, as counselors in our Grief Support program, as therapists in the Passages program, and even in support roles. Medicare requires that every hospice patient has access to a Master’s level social worker, licensed by each state to provide care. That license requires us to continually receive training on issues we encounter daily. It holds us accountable to provide professional assessments of psychological, emotional and practical needs. Every patient admitted to hospice care has a social worker as a vital member of their team.

Hospice social work is new to me, and has been a long-term professional goal. I am continuously amazed and touched by the experiences each day brings. I sit regularly with a woman who traveled all over the world and now lives in a nursing home – she loves to talk about the things she has seen. I visit one patient who is mostly non-verbal from dementia, watching him sing to his wife as our music therapist plays her guitar and prompts him to finish the chorus of a love song.

One of Young’s patients resting and sleeping during her visit.

Sometimes, I simply sit and hold someone’s hand, or provide a compassionate presence. I help people find safer places for their parents to live, provide them with lists of resources to get food or access to financial assistance, and I often advise them on funeral home resources in the area. Hospice social workers bear witness to the stories people want to tell, to both joyful and painful family dynamics, and to the pain of leaving a life lived well or with regret.

My favorite thing about my work with Kansas City Hospice patients and families is that every patient I meet is unique, therefore my role changes often. I am a detective, counselor, advocate for self-determination, and keeper of lists of resources. I actively listen, and encourage. Most importantly, I meet my patients and families where they are in their lives. Sometimes, that means I meet them in their driveway!


  1. Crispian Paul on July 7, 2023 at 8:52 am

    From one KCH social worker to another, thanks for writing this and explaining so well just what it is that “we do”. This is such a common question from patients, families and even the community and our own loved ones, so it’s important to educate people on why a social worker can benefit them and how!

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