The first evidence-based certification for social workers in hospice and palliative care is here. 

SWHPN is excited to announce that a new evidence-based certification for social workers in hospice and palliative care has arrived. The first exam for the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Worker Certification (APHSW-C) will be held January 15-February 2019; a second testing window will take place in July.

Frequently Asked Questions about the new certification program are below. 

Apply For APHSW Certification

  • The APHSW-C Candidate Handbook is now available. You may download it here. Please read through it carefully, as it contains important information about eligibility, and application and testing windows in 2019.

  • The APHSW-C Application for the first testing window is open. The application is open through December 15, 2019 for the first testing window of January 15 - February 16, 2019. You can access the application here.

SWHPN Members: How to Access Your Reduced Examination Fee

Please note: if you are a current SWHPN Member, you are eligible for a reduced examination fee by entering your SWHPN Membership Number at Step 4 of the application.

You can find your SWHPN Membership number by:

  1. Navigating to
  2. In the top menu bar, click on Member Center, then My Profile.
  3. Log in with your SWHPN username and password. 
  4. Under your profile, scroll down and you'll find your Member Number, as shown here:

Not a member of SWHPN yet? You can join here.

Watch our Q&A session with Barbara Head, APHSW Certification Board Chair, to learn more about this exciting new certification program and get your questions answered! You can view the slides from the program here. **


Questions and Answers about the APHSW-C Certification

What's the history of the certification program?
The first meeting of the SWHPN Certification Committee took place in 2016, after leaders in the field recognized the special skills and knowledge that social workers bring to the practice of hospice and palliative care. Led by Dr. Barbara Head, this committee explored funding opportunities and developed a proposal for an evidence-based certification for social workers in hospice and palliative care - the first of its kind.

Through a generous grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, sufficient funding was received to develop the program and exam for the APHSW-C.  We're grateful to the Moore Foundation for their leadership on this important professional designation for social workers.

What is SWHPN's role in the new certification program?
The SWHPN Board has offered its expertise and leadership in developing the program. The APHSW Board, a separate organization, oversees the implementation and administration of the certification program and the exam.

For its part, SWHPN will provide education and preparatory materials for the exam in the forms of study guides and online learning opportunities. These will be designed to not only benefit those applicants sitting for the exam but our membership and profession as a whole.
SWHPN membership is not required to take the APHSW-C exam, though SWHPN members do receive a discount. 

Why do we need an evidence-based specialty certification program?
Social workers are essential to the practice of hospice and palliative care. We bring specialized skills and knowledge to that practice and should be recognized as advanced practitioners. Our colleagues in nursing and medicine have had specialty certification programs for over 20 years.

Currently, there is a credentialing program through NASW for hospice and palliative social workers. A committee decides who receives the credential based on education, experience, and letters of reference.
The APHSW-C certification requires verification of knowledge and competency based on the passing of an evidence-based exam specifically and scientifically constructed to reflect the essential knowledge and skills required for specialty practice.
What are the benefits of an evidence-based program?
  • A defined body of knowledge and related education/training opportunities
  • Recognition by employers and colleagues
  • Preferred employability over non-credentialed social workers
  • Meets standards of accreditation bodies such as JCAHO
  • Improved patient/family care
  • Assures public that a practitioner has the knowledge and skills to provide safe, high-quality care
Who is eligible to take the exam?
There are several requirements to sit for the APHSW-C exam, and becoming certified:
  • Education requirements: applicants must have a Master’s Degree in Social Work or Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work
  • Experience: for MSWs, applicants must have two (2) years of post-degree experience in hospice and palliative social work over the past five (5) years; for BSWs, three (3) years of supervised experience in the past five (5) years
  • Ethics: applicants must attest that s/he practices in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics.
  • Licensure: licensure in good standing is required, if applicant's state requires licensure to practice based up on the person’s educational level and type of practice.

What type of test is it, and how was it developed?

A nationwide job analysis was conducted in fall 2017, based upon established literature and job descriptions. A questionnaire was administered online to a large sample of practitioners. The results of this analysis determined the skills and knowledge of the advanced palliative and hospice and social worker and served as the basis for the outline for the test content.

The APHSW exam consists of 150 multiple-choice items, covering four main areas of practice.


% of exam

# of Items

Assessment and Reevaluation



Planning and Intervention



Death, Grief and Bereavement









Each area tests the applicant on their ability to recall, apply concepts, and analyze specific problem situations.

The test will be administered by PSI, a private corporation providing a full range of program management, test development, and test delivery services to over 100 clients and testing over 200,000 candidates annually. Their staff is dedicated to testing development, informational technology, test administration, and candidate customer-service. Working with PSI ensures the certification program meets the highest standards for a psychometrically sound and legally defensible testing program. PSI has been a long-standing provider of program management for the certifications of hospice and palliative nurses and hospice medical directors.

Click here to see the full exam specifications in PDF

What can I do to prepare for the exam? 

SWHPN is offering a live webinar series in the fall of 2018 that covers the areas tested on the exam. These webinars will also be recorded and available for later viewing. You can see the topics covered and webinar dates here.

Webinars cost $25 for members (each); and $40 for non-members. Bundle rates are also available. You can register on our website at

I'm interested in learning more about this certification. What's the process for applying?

The certification program fee is $275 for SWHPN members and $450 for non-members.You can

What are the testing windows for the first examination?

The first two administrations of the exam will be held during two testing windows in 2019; one in January, and another in June. Registration for each testing window opens two months before the exam.

What if I fail the exam? Can I retake it? 

Yes, you may retake the exam if you fail, but you must re-register during the next testing window and pay for the examination fee.

What is the process for renewing my certification or becoming recertified?

Recertification will be based on a point system that incorporates a variety of factors, and scores: work experience, CEUs, conference presentations, supervision, and publications. The formal renewal process is explained in detail in the candidate handbook. 


The candidate handbook and application is now available via the Certification Board. You may download the candidate handbook here, and the application here. Applications are open through December 15, 2019 for the first testing window. 

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For questions on the certification program, please reach out to the certification team at [email protected].