My Journey into Palliative Care Social Work

Written by Katy Di-Lena, LOROS Hospice – November 2019

I have been a qualified Social Worker for just over four years now and I must say, what a journey it has been!

I always knew Social Work was my calling, the very moment I attended the Social Work MA open day at The University of Leicester where I studied my MA in 2013 I was hooked.

I am very proud to be part of a profession that is able to challenge the status quo, challenge injustice and inequality and where the promotion of human rights is at the very core of what we do. This I would argue is a rarity in the Society that we will live in today which is marked by ever present and growing societal ills most notably racism, poverty and sexism to name the very least.

I began my Social Work career with Nottingham City Council’s Adult Mental Health Social Work Team where I completed my ASYE. Working in Adult Mental Health services for a year was such an interesting and challenging area of work; in fact, I would say it has made me the very Social Worker that I am today enabling me to build the foundation skills that are key as a Social Worker most notably emotional intelligence and emotional resilience.

Since then I have worked with Leicestershire County Council for two and a half years working predominantly with adults with Learning Disabilities. Although I enjoyed this work and found it highly rewarding, working as a local authority Social Worker equally had its challenges. In a world driven by funding cuts, increased bureaucracy and red tape, I began to feel that my Social Work values were being tampered with. You see I am not just a Social Worker by title, my Social Work values are at the very core of my being and to not be true to my Social Work values, I was not being true to myself. What are these values you ask? Advocacy, the promotion of human rights, anti-oppressive practise, strengths-based practice, equality and diversity, social justice; they are what I and many other Social Workers like me live and breathe. These core values are the very reason I and many others entered the profession. My inability to truly incorporate these core values into the very essence of my practise as a result of the ever growing bureaucracy and red tape made me question whether I could carry on in a profession which I cared so much for, but felt so limited to what I knew I was truly capable of. This is because the inability to do so caused me great pain.

So, I contemplated alternative careers routes, Counselling perhaps or maybe a Disability Officer? But then I knew this was not quite enough. Then something wonderful happened. After months of looking for alternatives my dream job was there, staring at me right on a computer screen: ‘Loros Social Worker’, a role for a Hospice Social Worker at Loros Hospice in Leicestershire. Could this be I asked myself? Adrenaline began to pump through my body, I could not believe the job that I had wanted for four years had become available!

I visited Loros as a student: I was overwhelmed by the sincere and caring atmosphere that it poured out and I knew I needed to be a part of it. So here I am four years on and in my dream Social Work job as a Palliative Care Social Worker!

My core values are finally in harmony with my job role; I am able to adopt the person cantered and relationship based Social Work that I always craved on a daily basis. Loros is a wonderful place to work; all of the MDT work so closely together to support the patients as best we can, looking at their holistic needs. I feel the Medical and Social Model at Loros are equally respected which is so refreshing. As the Loros Social Worker my role is varied, supporting with benefits, the needs of Carers and leading on Safeguarding and Mental Capacity and DoLs are some of the skills I have adopted within the role to name a few. What is most fulfilling about my role and the Hospice’s role as a whole is that we always start with the question what is it that the patient needs and what can we do as a team to support this? That to me is the very essence of ‘true’ Social Work and how blessed I am to be a part of this. I cannot believe I almost contemplated leaving the very profession I was called to.