Statement on Hospice and Palliative Care Social Work Practice In Times of Health Care Crisis

The words "essential" and "non-essential" may become two of the most repeated words of 2020. We hear them in press conferences, read them in work e-mails, and see them on chyrons posted across the bottoms of our TV screens. For many of us in the Hospice and Palliative Care Social Work (HAPC-SW) field, these words have also been applied to our jobs in ways that, as many of us have discussed at our nightly support calls, have provoked conflicting feelings of both guilt and relief (when labeled non-essential) or fear and pride (when labeled essential).

For some HAPC-SW members, however, the label "non-essential" brought up much more than just an emotional response: it raised a threat to their jobs. Some of our professional peers around the world have been asked to cut back their hours or "volun-told" to take PTO. Some have been furloughed. Still other social workers in other areas of the country and world work without breaks, without days off for entire months, some because they are leaders, and others because their leaders are asking more of them without bringing in more staff to cover the increased demand.

In response to this seeming imbalance, SWHPN has released a "Statement on Hospice and Palliative Care Social Work Practice In Times of Health Care Crisis" as a formal practice document that HAPC-SWs can utilize as guidance from the field. Here are some ways you can utilize this document:

  • Clinicians, present this to your leaders as evidence that you are, in fact, an essential health care worker and, as such, should be working at your previous schedule, perhaps in a creative way, but in a way that is helpful to your patients and families, your team, your agency, your community, or some larger system, moving outward. 
  • Present this to administrators who are working with state leaders, or better yet, present it to state leaders yourself! Use it as evidence to both of these groups that HAPC-SWs are both essential and health care workers. 
  • Share it with any businesses that are giving discounts to frontline health care workers but exclude social workers from that list. Use this document not as a tool to "get free stuff", but rather as an advocacy tool. You do not need to actually order anything from the organization at the discounted rate, but you can help educate. 
  • Write an op-ed piece in a local or regional paper that shares this document or talks about social workers as essential and references this -- and be sure to share with SWHPN so we can share with everyone! Of course, an easy way to share this and spread the word that #WeAreEssential is on social media. 
  • Post this document or a link to it on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., or talk about it on your favorite social media channel and point people from all disciplines to the document so they can check it out and keep the discussion going. Some other hashtags you can use include: #SWHPN, #HAPC, #PedPC, #PalliCOVID, #SWthruCOVID, and don't forget to tag any colleagues you think might be interested, would share, or who would have something more to say about this. 

HAPC-SWs are essential and we are health care workers. We hope you find this document useful to advocate for the social work field in the weeks and months ahead.

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