ACHP-SW Gaining Popularity

— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff


The Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW), a credential designed for social workers who specialize in hospice and palliative care is growing popular among professionals and employers. NASW and its Credentialing Center partnered with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) to offer the credential program, which launched in November.

"NASW was pleased to partner with NHPCO to develop this important credential," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "Hospice care has always included social workers, and the profession needed a credential to indicate that social workers are a qualified and skilled part of the hospice and palliative care team."

Social worker and NASW member Gretchen Brown, president and CEO of Hospice of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Ky., is the new chair of NHPCO's Board of Directors. The slate of board officers was approved and the members of the Board's 2009 Executive Committee were officially installed at the Board's December meeting.

According to Stephanie Chambers, manager of the NASW Credentialing and Continuing Education Center, applications for the credential have come in at a rate approximately three times the projection.

Chambers says the credential enhances professionalism. "Social workers with specialty credentials have made a deliberate decision to focus their careers and their ongoing continuing education in a specific area of practice. Having a credential in hospice and palliative social work elevates the profession, and the professional," she said.

Social work in hospice and palliative care can be defined as the discipline that provides a professional continuum of services addressing the psychosocial needs of patients and families affected by serious and life-limiting illness in order to maintain, or improve, their quality of life. In carrying out their roles in this specialized arena, social workers also adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics, meet NASW Standards for Social Work Practice in Palliative and End of Life Care, and comply with NASW Standards for Cultural Competence.

Social work employers have expressed an interest in hiring credentialed professionals. "This is a critical next step after the basic requirement of licensure to many employers," said Chambers. "Professional credentials speak to a candidate's level of education and experience, but more than that, holding a credential shows an additional layer of commitment in pursuit of career excellence. Professional credentials are evidence that the social worker has voluntarily met national standards." Chambers says another reason employers are interested in credentialed social workers is because they are striving to meet consumer expectations and consumers of services expect to receive the best quality for the money they spend on health or behavioral health care.

Odyssey HealthCare, one of the largest national hospice organizations, is one employer that has agreed to financial incentives for social workers who are credentialed as Advanced Hospice and Palliative Social Workers. According to Beverley Scoggins, director of human resources and benefits at Odyssey, the organization is offering bonuses to social workers who succeed in getting the credential and is paying for the ACHP-SW application fee.

Due to the overwhelming interest from baccalaureate social workers and their employers, a BSW credential for social workers in hospice and palliative care was scheduled to be released on May 1. Chambers said this timing is six months earlier than originally planned, due to the high demand: Within weeks of releasing the MSW-level hospice and palliative credential, the department staff had received in excess of 200 requests for a similar recognition for BSW colleagues. Chambers says the policy climate with the new administration may be adding to the increase in applications.

The NASW Credentialing Center is also seeing a spike in applications for case management, clinical and gerontology credentials.

"Within the profession, interest in credentials has also risen significantly. Clinical social work has long been recognized as a specialty area of practice but it is by no means the only specialty. As the profession itself has grown to maturation, NASW has committed to developing credentials that recognize additional specialties," Chambers said.

Those interested in applying for the credential must meet eligibility requirements. Information about attaining an application for the social work credential in hospice and palliative care and additional specialty areas of practice can be found at NASW's Credentialing Center Web site.

Some of the basic requirements for the hospice and palliative care credential include a degree in social work from an accredited university; at least two years of supervised social work experience in hospice and palliative care; 20 or more continuing education units (CEUs) related specifically to the specialty practice; and membership in NASW and NHPCO's National Council of Hospice and Palliative Professionals (NCHPP).

Get more information on Credentials & Certifications.