The Gift of Listening
Posted by Susan Harvey, Social Worker
Part of good communication skills is the ability to listen. It's especially true in my role as a hospice social worker.
Being skilled in communication and assessment is vital to my work. These skills allow me to best identify the challenges my patients and their families face, and ensure I’m able to meet their needs.
I may find a patient’s wife tearful as she recognizes the decline in her husband. Sitting with her, I'll place my hand over hers when she squeezes tightly. The act of joining her for a cup of tea and normalizing these recent changes is something I can do to provide her comfort.
On arriving to a patient visit, I may find family members present and in crisis. As a hospice social worker, I know the importance of calmly assessing the family’s needs. Being able to sit with a patient's spouse, adult children and grandchildren and listen to their feelings, identify their concerns, and communicate back the next steps, I am able to provide what they need in that moment.
Meeting with a distraught adult daughter of a patient may mean sitting quietly with her, giving her permission to limit visitors to her dad, and validating the sadness that she is feeling. Empathy and wholeheartedness are indispensable for the hospice team.
Whether it is by offering reassurance or simply providing a calming presence at a very stressful time, the social worker plays an important role on the hospice team by helping patients and families manage the pain they may be feeling.