A Day in the Life of a Master-Level Social Worker Intern

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As a hospice social worker student, I am constantly faced with death. People ask me, “How do you do it? Don't you get depressed always surrounded by death? Doesn't it make you feel hopeless, because death is so final?” However, as a social worker intern in a home healthcare agency, hospice care is a support system for families as their loved one transition into the final stages of the life cycle. Hospice and death are taboo topics because we are afraid to discuss these two phenomena. However, an estimated 1.65 million patients received hospice services in 2015 (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, 2015). Although hospice is something that many people are afraid to discuss, over one million people benefit from hospice care each year. The misconceptions of hospice deter people from taking advantage of the services until it is almost too late.
Hospice care for me is not depressing, but rewarding, because I can be there for the individual and family members during one of the most crucial and impactful times of their life. Many of my colleagues ask me, out of all the placements a social worker can chose, why would you chose hospice care? I tell them that I chose hospice care because, throughout my young life I have lost a lot of people, including two grandparents, and hospice always provided such support, compassion, and empathy toward my family and me when we needed someone the most. It allows me to give back to the community and be that support toward other families.
Every day as I drive from patient to patient, who may live in homes, assisted living communities, or skilled nursing facilities, I think about my patients who might not have made it through the night. Every Tuesday, I meet with Ms. S. Ms. S is an 83-year-old woman who is in the final stages of Alzheimer's disease. Her husband died years ago, and her only close surviving relative is her daughter. Her daughter chose hospice 3 months ago when the doctors told her that her mother would have 6 months or less to live. Her treatment plan, as with all my patients, consists of comfort care, which is the philosophy and foundation of hospice care. The main goals as a social worker are to make sure that patients are comfortable, and the primary caregivers have all the necessary resources available to them.
My daily tasks with Ms. S consist of listening to music, mostly religious. We listen to Amazing Grace on repeat, and it is almost like Ms. S regains some of her memory, because she smiles every time I replay the song. Her daughter usually comes to our sessions when we discuss community support options. This allows me to discuss the importance of a support group that can benefit her to prevent burnout because she is a 24/7 live-in caregiver.
Most of my days consist of being a hand to hold, listening to 30's, 40's, and 50's music, giving ice chips, and being a companion to sick individuals and their families. At least once a week I attend funerals, memorial services, and discussions about funeral options. I am only at the beginning of my journey as a master's level social worker, but in a world that is filled with sadness, I have come to love the little things in life. I don't find hospice care to be depressing, but rather, rewarding because I know that I was there with the families when they needed someone the most.
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