August 2023 Info Session

Watch our informational session held on August 31, 2023 with Vickie Leff, LCSW, APHSW-C, former Executive Director of the APHSW Certification Program. 

What is the Advanced Palliative & Hospice Social Work Certification? 

Specialty certification is a process by which a nongovernmental agency verifies, based on predetermined standards, an individual’s qualifications (knowledge, skills, abilities, and experience) for practice in a defined area. Thanks to a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, an evidence-based certification program for hospice and palliative social workers was developed, the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Work Certification (APHSW-C).

This certification is similar to the specialty certifications of physicians and nurses in hospice and palliative care. Certification is awarded based upon years of experience, verification of licensure and ethical practice, and passing of a robust exam. The content of this exam is based upon a nationwide job analysis of hospice and palliative social workers. Exam items were developed by experienced content experts with the expert leadership of PSI, a testing company with over 70 years of experience. Those who complete the requirements for certification receive the designation Advanced Palliative and Hospice Social Worker Certified (APHSW-C).

Topics covered by the exam are:

Content Domain  

Percentage of Exam

Assessment and Reevaluation


Planning and Intervention


Death, Grief, and Bereavement





The Certification Examination for Hospice and Palliative Social Workers consists of 175 multiple choice items, of which 150 have equal weight for scoring. The examination includes 25 non- scored “pretest” or “trial” items that are interspersed throughout the examination. Performance on the pretest questions does not affect your examination score. The examination presents each question with four response alternatives (A, B, C, D). One of those represents the best response. You will be permitted three hours to complete this examination. Candidates achieving a passing score on this examination will be awarded the Advanced Palliative Hospice Social Worker-Certified (APSHW-C) credential.

The HPCC, with the advice and assistance of PSI, prepares the examinations. Individuals with expertise in hospice and palliative social work practice write the questions and review them for relevancy, consistency, accuracy, and appropriateness. Current SWHPN members are eligible to receive a discounted rate on both new certification and recertification.

Why pursue the APHSW-C?

Social workers are essential to the practice of hospice and palliative care. The APHSW-C certification recognizes bachelor’s and master’s level social workers with experience, specialized skills, and competency in hospice and palliative social work. The APHSW-C assures the public that certified practitioners have the knowledge and skills to provide safe, high-quality care at an advanced level. Individuals eligible for certification include experienced hospice and palliative care social workers that practice in clinical and academic settings in the United States and Canada. 

Holding the APHSW-C certification demonstrates to patients, their families and caregivers, employers, colleagues, and the public at large that a practitioner has met the highest standards of professional practice and has obtained objective validation of their expertise in providing advanced palliative and hospice social work services by:

  • Having earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Social Work;
  • Completing a minimum of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work determined by the degree earned;
  • Attesting to practice in accordance to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics;
  • Holding state licensure in good standing to practice, if required for employment;
  • Successfully passing a certification exam; and,
  • Committing to ongoing professional development.

Benefits of APHSW Certification

For the Social Worker:

  • Enhanced professional recognition from employers, colleagues, peers and clients.
  • Official recognition for knowledge and skills in specialist-level palliative and hospice care.
  • Patients and public assurance that care is provided by an expert based upon Objective evaluation of professional competence.
  • Enhanced sense of personal accomplishment and satisfaction.
  • Evidence of commitment to work to the top of one’s social work license.
  • Ongoing professional growth through recertification every four years.
  • Increased opportunities for hiring and promotion.

For the Employer:

  • Acknowledgment that the organization employs social workers who have met evidence-based, nationally developed criteria established by an objective certification body.
  • Improvement of patient/family care provided by competent social workers.
  • Recognition of quality care by organizations such as the Circle of Life and Joint Commission.
  • Confidence that social worker has obtained the needed knowledge and skills for advanced practice .
  • Identification of qualified individuals for employment and advancement.
  • Increased professionalism of social work staff.
  • Increased staff satisfaction and decreased staff turnover.
  • Justification for the advancement of social workers.
  • Potential to create a career ladder that includes recognition of advanced certification.

Preparing for the APHSW-C

SWHPN is offering an all-new Study Guide on September 1, 2023 to help prepare for the exam. The guide is built on the available content outline and offers sample questions in addition to testing tips. We also offer a Core Curriculum that provides a great review of content. Using the study materials in no way guarantees a successful passing of the exam.

SWHPN hosted an information session about the certification program on August 31, 2023. The recording is available here.

SWHPN Is not involved in the development of the exam. The APHSW-C is managed and administered through the HPCC.

APHSW-C Eligibility Requirements and Application Information

To be eligible for the APHSW-C Examination, an applicant must fulfill the following requirements.


Applicants must hold either a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work (BSW) or a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from an institution accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) or equivalent accreditation for degrees earned outside of the United States.


  • For BSWs: Applicants must have at least three (3) years of post-degree supervised experience in hospice and palliative social work and have at least (3) years of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work within the previous five (5) years. Supervision must be provided by a MSW or licensed professional experienced in hospice and/or palliative care.
  • For MSWs: Applicants must have at least two (2) years of post-degree experience in hospice and/or palliative social work within the previous five (5) years.

One year of experience is defined as working 2,000 hours.


Applicants must attest to practicing in accordance with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics.


If the applicant’s state requires licensure to practice based upon the applicant’s educational level and type of practice, licensure in good standing is required.

If you have any questions about your eligibility, please email HPCC directly at [email protected] or 412-787-1057. SWHPN is not involved in the application, taking of the exam, or recertification of the credential. Content of the exam is developed through HPCC. 

SWHPN Members: How to Access Your Reduced Examination Fee

Please note: if you are a current SWHPN Memberyou are eligible for a reduced examination fee. Please reach out to us at [email protected] to receive your member discount code!

Learn more about the APHSW-C Program