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Strategies for Avoiding Empathy Fatigue and Developing Emotional Resiliency During the Pandemic

The Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) applauds the recent decision by the FDA to approve the Pfizer vaccine, Comirnaty, for protection from COVID-19 for people aged 16 and older. The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks due to the Delta variant is a stark reminder of the serious health threat the virus poses, particularly for the elderly, individuals with underlying medical conditions, and children that cannot yet be vaccinated.

SWHPN strongly encourages all social workers in hospice and palliative care settings to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves, their coworkers, their patients, and their families. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at mitigating the risk of infection, especially when paired with other scientifically-backed measures like frequent hand washing and mask-wearing. Vaccinated individuals are protecting themselves by reducing the spread of the virus. All SWHPN Staff members are fully vaccinated.

We also know that there are many reasons some people may have for their vaccine hesitancy, including historical health abuses due to race and gender, lack of paid time off, lack of childcare, and disinformation campaigns on television and social media. There are also people who are unable to take the vaccine due to pre-existing conditions, and yet will be safer as more people are vaccinated. We strongly encourage social workers to take steps to enhance vaccine access for everyone, to ensure we achieve the goal of herd immunity as quickly as possible. 

Finally, we know that navigating ERs and ICUs that are filling with patients that need critical medical support, tending to families that cannot visit in-person, and helping hospital colleagues that are fatigued and stressed can lead to empathy fatigue. We hope that you are finding ways to build up your own reservoir of emotional resilience and taking breaks when you can to recharge.
If you are looking for ideas, or have some tried-and-true tips to share, we invite you to join us for our next CE webinar, an interactive conversation on Tuesday, September 14 at 5 pm EST / 2 pm PST, “Strategies for Avoiding Empathy Fatigue and Developing Emotional Resiliency During the Pandemic.” Registration is here. Current SWHPN Members can attend free of charge. 
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A Way to Respond: Learn and Share Your Voice

We know there is a lot going on. In just the past twelve weeks, we’ve seen the COVID-19 pandemic blaze through our communities, resulting in more than 100,000 deaths. We’re seeing the related economic downturn affect workers, businesses, housing, food security, and more interrelated systems. We’re sharing the righteous anger from thousands of people across the country as they protest the impunity with which racial, ethnic, and xenophobic hatred and violence has been allowed to flourish. We echo the statement cried out on the streets and emblazoned across social media that Black Lives Matter.

Through it all, hospice and palliative care social workers have faced changing norms and practices head-on. We’ve grappled with determining who is considered an “essential” worker eligible for PPE. We’ve learned how to conduct family meetings in our living rooms and parking garages via videoconferencing and new apps. We’ve figured out how to show a smile behind a mask, how to show concern without being able to hug, and how to record memories and share presence for loved ones who couldn’t be physically present. 

AND we’ve done all of that while also grappling with the social justice issues that, due to hundreds of years building up layers upon layers of structural racism and inequities, are suddenly split open for all to see. Of the COVID deaths, we see the disproportionate impact it has had on Black people, Native Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ+ people, incarcerated people, and other marginalized communities, due directly to historical factors including redlining, unequal access to  to jobs, healthcare, and insurance, and stigma from healthcare providers. In the economic downturn, we see the same factors at play again, affecting those already struggling; and again in the police and judicial systems that overwhelmingly harm communities of color. It has been a lot to take in and process, even more for our social workers who are living it as a reality.

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Your Annual Review: Take The Wheel

Get reimbursement for your professional memberships, certifications, and professional development.

For many of us, it is annual review time: a time to reflect on our work with managers and supervisors, and an opportunity to remind them of the value, skills and expertise we bring to our work, our teams, and our patients.

It is also a time to request things for yourself! Although budgets are tight, it's important to advocate for yourself and your profession. Many of us do receive money for CME activities, such an professional conferences like SWHPN's.

Here are five things to do when asking your manager or supervisor for professional support:

1. List all of your clinical activities and educational efforts (including the clinical work you do with health care providers “on the fly”); and any research, QI or program development you do individually or as part of a group/team. Demonstrate how valuable you are!

2. Remind your superiors of the evidence based value of social work. Social workers not only impact the quality of patient/family care, but often the “bottom line” of the hospital, by reducing lengths of stays when we are involved in the case. We also solve problems with distressed patients and families facing complex personal and medical situations that are overwhelming their capacities, providing important communications support for the hospital and interdisciplinary team.

3. Demonstrate the importance of advanced certification. The upcoming certification of APHSW is the first and only test-based certification for social workers in the medical field, and will, hopefully, lead to billing options in the future. It is critical that we all have advanced certification in the field of Palliative Care and Hospice. Your institution can support you in this effort by paying for your SWHPN membership and APHSW registration fee. The cost for SWHPN membership of $125 annually. The cost of the upcoming certification is $275 for members/$450 for non-members – a savings of $50 for members for a total request of $400 - giving you an advanced certification and the benefits of SWHPN membership. No matter what you're requesting, always ask for the specific amount.

4. Ask for support to attend professional conferences, usually limited to one. Of course, we would love for you to attend SWHPN 2019, to be held in Orlando (as will AAHPM and HPNA), and our 2019 costs (to be announced soon!) are still far less than AAHPM and HPNA. Between registration, travel and accommodations, $1,500 is a reasonable request to start with.

At our first event in 2012, less than 50% of SWHPN conference attendees received support from their institutions/hospices to attend; this year, that number has jumped to almost 80%! More and more participants are receiving support from their employers.

In many/most medical institutions and hospices it is standard to provide continuing education and membership fee money to MD’s and NP’s. It should be the same for social work. We are a valued member of the team and do important clinical, educational, and program work.















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Presentation Materials for Conference

Hello all conference attendees!  

We have uploaded all the presentation materials we have received here: http://www.swhpn.org/2018-conference-program

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