Hospice Credential Introduced

NASW and the NASW Credentialing Center have teamed up with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) to offer a new credential program designed for social workers who specialize in hospice and palliative care.

The series launches this month in honor of National Hospice Month, said Stephanie Chambers, manager of the NASW Credentialing and Continuing Education Center. "This credential was designed by social work leaders in hospice and palliative care for social workers who meet certain national standards of excellence," she said.

Katherine Walsh, professor at Springfield College School of Social Work, was among the selected panel of experts who spent the last year developing the credential's requirements.

"For some time, physicians and nurses in hospice and palliative care have been able to earn an advanced credential in their respective fields," Walsh said. "Now social workers in this setting can have the opportunity to be certified and become part of that team of experts. Social workers in hospice and palliative care deserve recognition for the unique skills and abilities they bring to the setting."

Walsh noted NASW's collaboration with NHPCO enhanced the credential's depth and the authenticity of the field. She said NASW is known for disseminating timely information about evolving issues in the social work profession, while NHPCO focuses specifically on emerging issues in hospice and palliative care.

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.

Sherri Weisenfluh, a social work section leader for NHPCO, was also a member of the expert panel selected to draft the credential requirements. She said the credential is vital in that there is now a way to show the public, peers and other professionals that hospice and palliative care is a specialty area in social work. "Being able to show that you are providing better care by being recognized as having national standards is important," she said.

Those interested in applying for the credential need to meet eligibility requirements. Information about obtaining an application for the social work credential in hospice and palliative care can be found at NASW's Credentials & Certifications.

Some of the basic requirements for the hospice and palliative credential include:

  • A master's degree in social work from an accredited university
  • At least two years of supervised social work experience in hospice and palliative care
  • Twenty or more continuing education units (CEUs) related specifically to the specialty practice
  • Membership in NASW and NHPCO

Walsh noted that news reports and studies have shown there will be an ever increasing demand for social workers who specialize in hospice and palliative care as the baby boom population enters its senior years. "Both hospice and palliative care fields are dealing with increased client populations," she said. "As the number of clients increases, so will the need for skilled social workers to meet the demand."