Human Services Guide

Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker

The Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker is a specialization within the Social Work field that focuses on working with the terminally ill and their families. Palliative care and Hospice is the team based approach to helping the dying and their families. This usually consists of some combination of counseling spiritual as well as secular in approach along with medical care and doctor prescribed pain medication. The goal of Hospice and Palliative Care is to limit suffering and alleviate the pain of the terminally ill. Social workers who specialize in this field take a Social Work approach and background into this field by attaining additional accreditation through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) or a similar certifying body. Working with the rest of the Hospice team the Social Worker helps to create a safe environment that allows dying to be a dignified transition while working to relieve the physical and emotional pain of the dying patient and attend to the psychological and emotional needs of their family.

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The main functions of the Hospice and Palliative Care worker can be seen in this related article:

Often in our culture, the phenomenon of death and dying is one that is hidden from our experience of life until such time as we ourselves or our family members are faced with their own mortality. This can make the advent of a terminal illness within our inner circle an incredibly jarring and painful experience that we have no previous life experience to inform us on how to cope with the pain, fear, desperation, anger and grief. The Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker fills this void by working as part of an interdisciplinary team to help alleviate the physical and emotional suffering brought about by a terminal illness.

The impact of the Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (CHP-SW) on family members and society as a whole is also very profound. In previous eras, hospice and palliative care was not something that existed in our society and combined with attitudes about death and dying and the need to keep it hidden from general society, the experience of death and dying for the individual and their families was extremely traumatic. Now, with hospice and palliative care, people can have an experienced team of counselors, social workers and medical personnel guide them through the process of death and dying with a sense of compassion and dignity. The kind of support a family experiences in the hospice and palliative care experience is a quantum leap forward from prior eras. In times past families were devastated by the deaths of loved ones and this had a ripple effect on society as a whole with people succumbing to multi-decade depressions, substance abuse and even suicide due to extreme grief that was not understood or allowed to be expressed. The positive impact on the individual, family and society of a CHP-SW is hard to quantify and equally hard to overstate.

Bachelor Level Certification

There are two main levels of Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Work (CHP-SW). The first is the Bachelor’s level or standard certification in hospice and palliative care. The Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Workers have a bio-psychsocial approach to meeting the needs of the terminally ill patient from a strength based perspective. This is in tandem with an care plan that changes as the health of the patient changes to meet the emergent physical, emotional and social needs of the client. The social worker takes their place as part of an interdisciplinary hospice team that works to meet all the evolving needs of the patient.

In order to apply for the CHP-SW certification with NASW, the Social Worker must meet the following criteria1:

  • The social worker must agree to adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics and the NASW Standards for End of Life Care. Both of which are standards created by the NASW.
  • The social worker must have a Bachelor of Social Work degree (BSW) from a NASW accredited college or university
  • The social worker must have at least 20 continuing education units that are directly relevant to hospice and palliative care.
  • The social worker must show at least 3 years of documented supervised social work experience within the field of hospice and palliative care.
  • The social worker must have a current and up to date license to practice professional social work within their state. For those states that do not allow BSW’s to practice social work there is an additional requirement of 4 years of experience along with 40 contact hours of CEU in hospice and palliative care.

Once these have been met the candidate may apply with the National Association of Social Workers and pay the required fee, present proof of requirements and become a Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker.

Master Level Certification

The Master’s level certification of Hospice and Palliative care in the context of social work is called, The Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Worker (ACHP-SW). The ACHP-SW has a similar function to that of the CHP-SW, but has additional experience and training within the field of social work. The requirements to achieve this certification are also significantly higher than that of the CHP-SW. With the higher degree and advanced form of licensure the ACHP-SW also will of course command a higher salary or pay-scale.

In order to qualify to apply for the ACHP-SW certification the social worker applicant must meet the following requirements2:

  • The social worker must agree to adhere to the NASW Code of Ethics and the NASW Standards for End of Life Care. Both of which are standards created by the NASW.
  • The social worker must have a Master’s of Social Work degree (MSW) from a NASW accredited college or university
  • The social worker must have at least 20 continuing education units that are directly relevant to hospice and palliative care.
  • The social worker must show at least 2 years of documented supervised social work experience within the field of hospice and palliative care.
  • The social worker must have a current and up to date license to practice professional social work within their state.

Education to Join the Workforce

Depending on the level of certification you wish to have you will need differing levels of degree within the field of Social Work. While you are likely to be able to work as a CHP-SW within your state by first earning your Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), continuing your education to earn your Master of Social Work (MSW) will give you far greater options including having licensure as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in addition to your certification as an ACHP-SW.

Earning Potential for Certified Hospice and Palliative Social Workers

Based on having your MSW and Social Work Licensure, the annual mean salary for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on a nationwide basis ranges - depending on employer - between: $40,740 and $70,6603

What’s Next to Pursue this Career?

Regardless of the level of licensure and certification you wish to obtain, your first step will be to earn a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). If you wish to have advanced licensure and certification you will need to go on to earn your Master of Social Work degree. If you wish to have licensure as a social worker you will need to check with your state’s licensure requirements which can be found from clicking on your state on the map located on our homepage. One you have passed your examination you are ready to join the work force and start earning your experience in hospice and palliative care en route to certification as either a CHP-SW or an ACHP-SW. You will find a database of schools in your area with Social Work degrees by clicking here.

  • 1 http://www.socialworkers.org/credentials/credentials/chpsw.asp
  • 2 http://www.socialworkers.org/credentials/credentials/achp.asp