For many years, hospice and palliative nurses and physicians have had specialty certification programs, yet such certification programs did not exist for their social worker colleagues. One reason for this is the lack of identified, clearly-delineated roles, skills, and tasks employed by these specialty social workers in their daily work.

The first step in developing an evidence-based specialty certification program is to conduct a nationwide job analysis. This poster reports the results of the first nationwide job analysis of hospice and palliative social workers.

A contextual, cross-sectional survey design was used to identify current and relevant job tasks from currently practicing hospice and palliative social workers. A sample of 482 social workers, representing 46 states, responded to the survey that included demographic questions and ranking of 152 tasks and their importance to the position. Tasks were categorized into four broad categories: assessment and reevaluation; planning and intervention; death, grief, and bereavement; and professionalism. Each category includes subcategories consisting of multiple tasks and skills. The five tasks respondents identified as being most important to their role as hospice and palliative social workers include performing a psychosocial assessment from a patient/family centered care perspective, assessing the patient’s current and desired quality of life, assessing the patient’s coping skills, assessing the family/caregivers coping and identifying support systems.

This outline of the role of the specialist hospice and palliative social worker was used to develop an evidence-based exam required of those wanting to receive advanced certification in this specialty. Items were developed by expert practitioners based on the results of the job analysis; these items went through a series of reviews by content experts before being included in the first exam offered in early 2019.

One hundred and eighty-eight social workers applied for certification and took the first exam; 163 passed and received the Advanced Palliative and Hospice Social Certification (APHSW-C). An additional 210 social workers are scheduled to test July 16 - August 20, 2019.

The job analysis and development of the certification program was funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


Barbara A. Head, PhD, CHPN, ACSW, FPCN, APHSW-C
Associate Professor
University of Louisville School of Medicine
501 East Broadway, Suite 330B
Louisville, KY 40223
(502) 852-3014

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