Palliative, Hospice Groups Honored With Circle of Life Awards

Social workers played a vital role in three palliative and hospice care organizations that received 2011 Circle of Life Awards in San Diego on July 18.

The Circle of Life Awards honor organizations that provide innovative palliative and end-of-life care and contribute ideas and models that other providers and practitioners learn from.

Major sponsors of the award include the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the National Hospice Foundation.

NASW is a co-sponsor of the awards, along with the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. NASW member Shirley Otis-Green, a senior research specialist in the nursing research and education division at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., also sat on the Circle of Life Award selection committee.

NASW member Sherri Weisenfluh, associate chief clinical officer of counseling at the Hospice of Bluegrass in Lexington, Ky., will be a part of the selection committee next year.

“The National Association of Social Workers is very pleased to be a co-sponsor of the Circle of Life Awards,” said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark, who attended the award ceremony along with NASW Communications Director Gail Woods Waller. “The social work profession helped create the hospice movement and social workers continue to be innovators in this much-needed field.”

Clark added: “We are also glad that Shirley Otis-Green and Sherri Weisenfluh, who have years of experience in hospice and palliative care, are part of the process to select award recipients.”

The 2011 Circle of Life Award winners were:

  • The Center for Hospice and Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, N.Y.: Offers a broad range of services and takes a strategic approach to meeting community needs, including reaching out to the minority community in Buffalo. The center also supports collaboration across the healthcare continuum. Social workers play a vital role at the center, including taking part in Home Connections, a home-based palliative care program.
  • Gilchrist Hospice Care in Hunt Valley, Md.: Promotes communication and coordination of the care of its clients across various settings, including the home and nursing facilities to the hospital or hospice. Gilchrist also works to integrate palliative and geriatric care and does a lot of staff education, orientation and mentoring. Officials at Gilchrist are proud that its social workers, physicians and nurse practitioners are skilled in internal, palliative and geriatric medicine, are good at managing transitions between care settings, and can conduct difficult family meetings on advance care planning.
  • St. John Providence Health System in Detroit, Mich.: Did a cultural change on palliative and end-of-life care. Now every patient is screened for palliative care, allowing more patients to receive services at an earlier point in their illness. The organization also trains all types of hospital staff on palliative and end-of-life care, including dietary and housekeeping staff, and engages community spiritual leaders in the patient care process. Patients get a comprehensive assessment by a palliative care physician or nurse practitioner, along with spiritual care and social work providers.

“The involvement of social workers in all the facilities that were Circle of Life Award winners demonstrates the value social work brings to this field,” Clark said. “We appreciate the American Hospital Association’s commitment to educating the public about these essential health care services for patients and their families.”