The 2nd annual Social Work Hospice & Palliative Care Network (SWHPN) General Assembly convened 300 social workers and other health care professionals to share innovations and opportunities in psychosocial care. The Assembly, held March 10-11, 2014 in San Diego, featured approximately 90 plenary, symposium, workshop, breakout, and poster presentations from across the nation and abroad.
Led by Drs. Grace Christ, SWHPN Chair and Professor Emerita of the Columbia University School of Social Work, and Gary L. Stein, SWHPN Vice Chair and Wurzweiler Professor, this year’s event highlighted the diverse work of emerging leaders and new palliative social workers while honoring the career achievements of seasoned experts in the field. SWHPN’s 2014 Career Achievement Awards were given to Iris Cohn Fineberg, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare, and President of the Association of Oncology Social Work; and Susan Gerbino, Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work at New York University.
SWHPN Assembly presentations highlighted the social work role in clinical practice, research, policy, and education. Expert presenters covered a spectrum of current and historical contributions of social workers to best practices in palliative care in advocacy, ethics, training, cultural competencies, interdisciplinary collaboration and professional leadership. Plenary sessions considered social work leadership, cultural diversity, policy and advocacy, and advance care planning. Wurzweiler alumna Frances E. Heller, palliative social worker at New York Presbyterian Hospital, spoke on the practitioner plenary panel about the importance of leadership and “champion training” in developing the palliative care service at her hospital. International palliative physician, Kathy Foley, International Director of the International Palliative Care Initiative at the Open Society Foundation, traced the evolution of the culture of dying in America and the field of palliative care, and noted the challenges for moving into the future.
SWHPN, a professional organization for social workers in palliative, hospice, end-of-life care, emerged in 2007 from leadership-building initiatives spanning more than a decade, including the Project on Death in America’s Social Work Leadership Awards Program, funded by the Open Society Foundation. The organization’s goal is to provide a forum for palliative social workers to collectively exercise leadership and develop and disseminate their knowledge and skill within our profession, among the interdisciplinary health care team, and through palliative care forums. SWHPN now boasts more than 550 members and 4,500 newsletter and social media subscribers. To learn more about SWHPN and to become a member, visit www.swhpn.org. The 2015 SWHPN General Assembly will be held on February 23-24, 2015 in Philadelphia.
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