Dear Barbara, I want to become a more competent hospice social worker and develop expertise in the field and if possible even become an educator on topics related to hospice. Where do I get started with developing expertise in the field and learning to become a trainer of hospice subjects.
Aside from reading every book you can find on end of life, on self awareness, on communication techniques, on psychosocial issues, and interactions, throw in knowledge of various religious ideologies, and become a member of NHPCO, AAHPM and SWHPN as well as your state organizations (Being a member of these organizations gives you the opportunity to interact with others of like mind and to keep current on national trends and ideologies).
All of the above is important to developing expertise BUT I think first and foremost, work in the field with patients and families (you can’t be an expert if you haven’t had hands on experience FOR A WHILE, think years vs. months). You have to walk the walk before you can talk the talk. Learn from your patient/family interactions. At the same time read everything you can get your hands on about end of life and incorporate what you've learned into actual patient/family communication. And get to know yourself, your motivations, and beliefs.
By knowing yourself you can then see how your interactions with others are affected by who you are and your beliefs. When all of the above is accomplished take your experiences and the information you've gathered into yourself and see what makes sense. What seems real and true. THAT is what you share. THAT is where your expertise comes from. Expertise is not parroting what others believe BUT sharing what you have found ---- found by being knee deep in the thick of something you have grown to love and feel passionate about.
Something More about... Developing End of Life Expertise
The difference between caring for someone who is going to get better and a person who can't be fixed is significant. I encourage nursing students, hospice social workers, chaplains, hospice nurses (particularly new ones), doctors, etc to watch THIS IS HOW PEOPLE DIE. It is a comprehensive education on caring for dying patients.