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In a hospital or hospice program, the bereavement coordinator is the point person for helping patients and families cope with loss, grief and death. They coordinate the physical, emotional, therapeutic and spiritual needs of patients and their families to assess the current and potential needs of grieving families and to make arrangements for those needs to be met.
Preparing for the Role
While you may start in the field with a bachelor’s degree in social work, you will need a master’s degree and a license to provide clinical counseling to families and patients. To earn your license as a clinical social worker, you must complete a master’s program and two years of practical experience under supervision in a direct-care clinical setting. Earn additional certification in thanatology, which is the study of death and how it affects families. Apply for the credentials after working in the field, participating in the certification program and passing an exam through the Association for Death Education and Counseling.
Counseling the Bereaved
Patients and their families undergo a barrage of special needs and it’s up to the bereavement counselor to determine the level and scope of those needs through counseling sessions. The initial assessment is performed while the patient is in the hospital, already referred to a hospice program or in an outpatient setting. The coordinator may refer the patient and family members to outside sources for services such as in-home health care and equipment, therapy, education and support groups. Counselors also may have first contact with bereaved family members after the death of a loved one.
Coordinating with Other Professionals
It’s the duty of the bereavement coordinator to communicate effectively with doctors, nurses, counselors, dietitians, chaplains, social workers and volunteers. The coordinator may serve as a member of a hospice care team or speak to the team to deliver assessments and requests for the family. Very often, it’s the bereavement counselor who prepares the care plan for hospice patients and sets up a schedule for volunteers, nurses and other counselors.
Helping with Final Arrangements
An important aspect of bereavement care is to help the dying patients and their families prepare for the end by making the final memorial arrangements. With the assistance of religious and funeral home professionals, the coordinator orchestrates the final services. To be effective, bereavement coordinators must have a clear understanding of the cultural and spiritual values of the family. Careful listening and questioning skills come into play when discussing the final arrangements, requiring the coordinator to achieve a delicate balance between objectivity and sensitivity.
2016 Salary Information for Social Workers
Social workers earned a median annual salary of $47,460 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, social workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $36,790, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $60,790, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 682,000 people were employed in the U.S. as social workers.
- American Hospice Foundation: Tips for Professional Geriatric Care Managers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Social Workers
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Bereavement Counseling
- Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care Association: Resources
- Lovingly Managed: Bereavement Coordinators and Funeral Planners
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Social Workers
- Career Trend: Social Workers
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."