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  • Hosparus Health Social Workers Find Their Calling

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For patients and families facing serious illnesses, Hosparus Health social workers help bring some order to a situation that can seem overwhelming. They are skillful listeners, spending time with families to understand their unique situation and offering support and guidance for end-of-life decision-making.

Our social workers connect patients and their caregivers with resources to ease the burdens of medical care and help families cope with grief. Their work is instrumental in ensuring each end-of-life journey is as rich as possible.

For Hosparus Health’s 28 social workers, social work is not a job, it’s calling to serve others. In recognition of National Social Work Month, we asked two of them — a veteran of the profession and one relatively new to her career — to share their thoughts on what makes working with our patients and families so meaningful to them.

Cheri Lang, MSSW, LCSW, has been with Hosparus Health since 1991. Cori Lutz, MSSW, CSW, joined our team in 2015.

Why did you choose social work as a career?

Cheri: I chose social work simply because I wanted to help people. That remains true today, though it has taken on a deeper meaning as I hope to help people by supporting and advocating for their right to self-determination, which is a core value of social work.

Cori: I wanted to work directly with people and do something to make a difference.
What’s your favorite part of your job?

Cheri: The many patients and families I have crossed paths and connected with that I may not otherwise have gotten to meet, being part of an interdisciplinary team and the many lessons I’ve learned about living and dying. Having a job that I believe in the mission and feel good about the work that I do, that it is meaningful and makes a difference. Helping to give people who are dying a voice so that they may live out their life how they want to live it.

Cori: Meeting new people all the time in different walks of life and seeing the love that couples have for each other at the end of life.

What attracted you to Hosparus Health?

Cori: The mission is so powerful, and I have had family members involved in Hosparus before. I remember how happy my grandpa would get when he knew his hospice nurse was coming to see him, and even at 15 years old, I thought it had to be a great place to work for those employees to make such an impact on a dying person’s life. When I was given the opportunity to do my practicum in graduate school at Hosparus, I jumped at it, and it surpassed everything I could have hoped for in an organization. I haven’t looked back a single day since starting this career, and I know this is what I am meant to do with my life.

How has your work at Hosparus Health evolved over the years?

Cheri: I would say it is still evolving. I am becoming more self aware through reflecting on my experiences with patients and families, and learning from my team and coworkers. Increased self-awareness has deepened my work and the way in which I approach visits, connect with patients and families and engage in end-of-life conversations. I am becoming a better listener as I help patients and families identify what is important to them and how Hosparus can be most helpful to them during this experience.
Is the work you are doing for Hosparus Health what you expected?

Cori: Yes and no. It seems like every day is an adventure, and I never know what is going to come of the day, whether it’s attending a death and providing support to family at bedside, helping patients and families find resources for financial assistance, or just being a listening ear to an overwhelmed and exhausted caregiver. It never gets boring, and that is something I did not expect. I am also surprised at the overwhelming support from my colleagues and how quickly the other social workers help out when I need some assistance with any issue that arises. All of the Hosparus staff are some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.

How have you changed as a social worker over the past two decades?

Cheri: Since I have been at Hosparus for almost 24 years, I have often joke that Hosparus has “raised” me. However, it is true. I live my life differently because of my work with Hosparus. It has taught me as much about living as it has dying. I believe I am living my life with more intention and an acceptance for the way others chose to live their lives. I look at life, even what seems to be the simplest things, with gratitude. I realize the importance of humor and self care. I am more adaptable and humbled to learn that it is not about my plan. I am learning that, in living and dying, there can be both suffering and joy, peace and fear, sadness and hope and that I can be present. I can give others and myself a space to feel heard, loved and accepted.

What is the most important lesson you have learned so far?

Cori: I’ve learned to take nothing in life for granted, live each day like it could be your last, and love and hug on those you love extra hard as often as you can.

What advice would you give to new social workers?

Cheri: I would want to encourage their ongoing learning and self-awareness in doing hospice social work. I believe in doing so, you will provide a more meaningful experience for our patients and families, as well as yourself. Be mindful that we are juggling a lot throughout the day, try and pause as you enter the door of each home, remembering that although we do this each day, this experience is new to that patient and family. While I have found that being present with people who are dying can actually be life giving, it is also difficult at times, and you need to find healthy ways to take care of yourself and seek support.