There’s No Better Feeling Than Being a Hospice Social Worker

Social Workers Month BLOG
By:  Crispian Paul, LMSW, LAC, KCH Social Worker
Published:  March 19, 2024

I once read a joke about social workers: that we’re one of the only professions that has to explain what it is that we do at every family reunion. While this might not be technically correct, it is a common question I’m asked by clients/patients and their families, as well as by my own family and friends. 

When it comes to hospice social work, the question and answer are murky. How do you answer what it’s like to see people die and watch their families suffer, but also grow and accept? When a new patient or their family member asks me what my role is, my standard response is “well, that kind of depends on you”. And I mean that 110% and with the utmost respect. Let me explain….

When the hospice social worker is tasked with assessing a new patient and their family unit, we inherently lean into the individual/family’s resources and wishes—their “story”—because that’s how we’re trained and educated to view human beings—through the lens of their strengths. We’re there to help complete the “picture” for the larger care team, to help the team know more about the things that make that person unique and resourceful. The social worker is there to help patients and their families assert their rights and goals, both within and outside the hospice team (and sometimes to assert with/for them!), to help assure that they understand the care being provided, and to reinforce their own strengths, abilities and resources. 

All of this is not to say that social workers are “Pollyannas” who only see the good in the world and are thus blind to the bad. We’re simply trained to see the “bad” and to find the “good” available to our clients, to best address what – if anything – is troubling them. 

Every patient, family, group, and community has their own goals, needs and resources. This uniqueness is one of the cornerstones of the Strengths Perspective, a perspective often used within the social work and other helping, mental health professions. The idea of looking to the individual to define their own goals, wishes and resources allows for what we call “client self determination.” Self determination is the idea that people have a right to make their own decisions, whether they align with our own personal values or not. Moreover, they MUST do so in order to effect any meaningful change in their own life and circumstances. This is what excites me the most about being a social worker! 

I enjoy finding ways to use language and practical skills to reframe and address “problems” instead as needs, strengths and solutions. I love it when I’m able to “walk with” someone while they discover what’s most important to them. And when I reflect back to a client/patient what I see and hear them saying, and when they have a “YES!” moment about what is important to them, there’s almost no better feeling in the world.

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March is National Social Work Month and at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care, we celebrate! Our social workers provide compassionate care and support to a variety of complex patient and family needs. For more information about what our social workers do at Kansas City Hospice please join Crispian Paul for our free, virtual March Community Education Series session, Building Hope for Those We Serve and Ourselves: The Power of the Strengths-Based Approach in Healthcare on Thursday, March 21 at noon. To register for this event please Click Here. We look forward to your attendance. 

The Kansas Board of Nursing approves Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care as a provider of continuing nursing education. This course is approved for 1 contact hour for RN/LPN relicensure by the Kansas State Board of Nursing Approved Provider #LT0119-0916 and the Missouri Department of Professional Registration State Committee for Social Work. You must register and be on camera to qualify for the CE. Please note, we do not provide CEs for physicians.


  1. Mark Fenton on March 20, 2024 at 11:21 am

    Grateful for the versatility our social workers bring to the workplace. They help set the table for care that is given.
    Happy Social Workers Month to each one of you. You are valued!

  2. Cindy Lynn on March 28, 2024 at 8:08 am

    Building Hope for Those We Serve and Ourselves: The Power of the Strengths-Based Approach in Healthcare is such an important conversation. Thank you for sharing!

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