You can be a resilient hospice social worker

My spouse’s back has been hurting her. My two youngest kids are down in the dumps with colds. It’s a Tuesday but I’ve worked every day since the weekend before last. This last weekend was a National Guard drill. I had some downtime the weekend before that, but a Saturday respite visit and an early Sunday morning death visit robbed the weekend of its full restorative potential.

Today I have a full schedule. And I am tired. Until I return to my normal level of optimism and pep, I’ll be putting to the test my ability to maintain my resilience. What an appropriate time to write about what we can do as hospice social workers to resist burnout

I’ve got tools for you! This was a focus of my research in graduate school, and I’ve developed strategies and perspectives that have kept me healthy, optimistic and competent through challenging situations, like being on call every night for six months with a 60-patient caseload.

Throughout the next month, I’ll share methods of keeping going while maintaining your energy and a high quality of service. For now, I’ll deliver one perspective that can potentially make all the difference:

Your goal is to enjoy your workday.

The goal is enjoyment

Don’t just spend your day doing social work. Certainly don’t just rush through from one patient or one note to the next. Instead, enjoy doing social work.

Find opportunities for enjoyment. Enjoy interactions. Our work calls upon us to cultivate affirming relationships patients and their family members, and we do even better if we cultivate mutually affirming relationships with our colleagues on our team and in the facilities we visit.

Take some extra moments to appreciate these interactions. Compliment people. See how many times you can use the phrase: “One thing I like about you is…”

Enjoy breathing

Challenge yourself to take a 5-minute walk after every car ride. Take a leap of faith that no one will hold you accountable for five minutes per patient, whether you are five minutes late for appointments or your drive time is five minutes longer than it would be otherwise. If your hospice is busy, they don’t have time to scrutinize your use of 5 minutes. If they aren’t busy, then they’re taking breaks, too. If they’re a good agency, like mine is, they want you to be happy and healthy and would applaud your dedication to maintaining yourself.

You chose one of the most challenging career fields, but also one of the most meaningful. Allow yourself to enjoy it. Find the time. Remind yourself. Know that you deserve to feel good.

When we next meet, we’ll focus on some of the specific strategies you can exploit to take good care of yourself as we march on, selflessly caring for those who really need our support.

Are you passionate about hospice?

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Are you REALLY passionate about hospice?

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Five direct interventions for non-verbal patients

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