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Social Work Policy Institute Holds Think Tank Symposium on Hospice Social Work

Symposium Created Action Plan for Future Policy and Research

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI) hosted a think tank symposium, Hospice Social Work: Linking Policy, Practice, and Research, to identify current issues for hospice social work with the goal of creating an action plan for future policy and research.  The symposium took place on Thursday, March 25, 2010, at the national headquarters of the National Association of Social Workers in Washington, DC.

The modern hospice movement uses a team approach to professionally administer pain management and compassionate caregiving to the dying.  There are currently more than 4,500 hospice programs in the U.S., serving more than a million people.  Just under half of current hospice programs are for-profit (46%), half are non-profit (50%), and 4% are operated by the government (e.g., U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs).  Nearly all hospice care is paid for through the Medicare or Medicaid Hospice Benefit (89%), which covers about 89% of a patient’s stay.  Social workers in hospice care for an average of 24.2 patients, compared to a nurse’s average of 13.3 patients.

“As hospices are implementing the revised conditions of participation, this is an important time to examine the crucial role that professional social workers play as part of the hospice team,” said Joan Levy Zlotnik, Ph.D., ACSW, director of the Institute.

The symposium was organized into three broad parts:

  • Part One, “Framing the Issues,” included presentations and discussions on community-based end-of-life care, social work’s role in hospice, and promoting the quality of psychosocial care in hospice.
  • Part Two, “Identifying Gaps, Challenges, and Emerging Practices,” involved facilitated discussions on the current status of hospice psychosocial research, opportunities for social work in emerging practices in end-of-life care, enhancing social workers’ roles on interdisciplinary teams, and enhancing researcher/practitioner/policy connections.
  • Part Three, “Developing an Action Plan,” featured work groups on the topics of building the science of hospice social work through research and training, national collaboration and partnerships, creating research-practice bridges, and the implications and recommendations for policy.

Featured presenters at the symposium included:  Samira Beckwith, ACSW, Hope Hospice, Fort Myers, FL; Ronald Fried, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, Washington, DC; Deborah Waldrop, PhD, School of Social Work, University at Buffalo, NY; Mary Rossi-Coajou, MS, RN, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Standards and Quality; and Danielle Shearer, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Standards and Quality.

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The Social Work Policy Institute (SWPI) is a think tank established within the National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) in order to strengthen social work’s voice in public policy deliberations, inform policy­makers through the collection and dissemination of information on social work effectiveness and create a forum to examine current and future issues in health care and social service delivery.

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.