National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO)

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), is a social work agency based in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Its mission is to expand access to a proven person-centered model in healthcare, one that provides patients with peace, comfort, and dignity during their most intimate and venerable life experiences. NHPCO was founded in 1978 and has been among the top professionals and providers of care to patients with life-limiting and serious illnesses. NHPCO mainly operates in Washington, D.C but is open to the general public from all parts of the world.

The broad community of workers in NHPCO consists of palliative care and local hospice providers, individual professionals, and networks serving the more significant regions of the United States. The medical social workers are both BSWs and MSWs, consisting of both men and women with at least a bachelor’s holder’s degree in social work, counseling, and psychology. All the social workers should have licenses, be masters holders, or are still pursuing it to become a staff of NHPO.NHPO represents the interests of the general public as well as its members with legislative advocacy that enables enhancement and access to holistic healthcare and the wellbeing of the community.

All members of the community are eligible for care offered by NHPCO as long as they are registered as members. NHPCO provides practical guidance, inspiration, and legislative representation to palliative and hospice care providers by providing them with the essential tools needed. NHPCO is a nonprofit organization that funds itself and receives donations from other willing agencies and donors. However, NHPCO faces a significant challenge in providing greater accessibility to more specialized therapies and drugs, especially with serious illnesses like HIV. With their skilled professionals, NHPCO dedicates itself to caring for people with life-limiting and severe illnesses and plans to integrate its services into other states not only in the United States but also in other countries in the world. It also aims to enhance its efficacy in medicine and caregiving continually.


Janelle Burns is a medical social worker working with NHPCO, a nonprofit organization offering comprehensive healthcare to terminally ill individuals. Before NHPCO, she worked at Lucile Children’s Hospital in New York and interned at Caregivers, inc., in Stanford. Burns has been a medical social worker in NHPCO for the last six years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in medical social work from UC Santa Cruz in 20017 and received her MSW from Stanford University in 2012.

Interviewer: What is a typical day like for you?

Burns: It is hard to explain what my typical day is like since every day is different. Some days the organization sents us out to do home visits while conducting cognitive tests. Other days I am at the hospital attending to the terminally ill patients. Most of the time, I work at the agency since most of my patients are members of NHPCO, so, it is easy for me to check on them throughout the day.

Interviewer: What do you enjoy most about social work?

Burns: One thing I enjoy most about social work is that I can create long-term relationships and change many lives. A good example is when I can talk to my participants, connect with them, and show them love and care. I find social working one of the most rewarding experiences through learning and being able to connect with others.

Interviewer: What do you dislike or find the most frustrating about social work?

Burns: To be honest, patient deaths have been the most frustrating and difficult occasions during my social work. Despite having a supportive team, I personally think that the emotional impact of having my patients die is a lot harder. Additionally, some families are challenging to work with. Most families are often at one end or the other of the spectrum. You can spend much of your time calling them, but they never call back. Trust and strong relationships are vital when it comes to social work and care.

Interviewer: Why do you choose to become a social worker?

Burns: I chose to become a social worker since I want to make a difference in the lives of serious and terminally ill patients. I have seen many challenges that these patients encounter every day, and I would like to improve their conditions. I thrive to not only motivate but also advocate and empower this target group.

Interviewer: Do you have any advice for a student who is interested in the field of social work?

Burns: It is suitable for an individual to have experience of working with patients because social working is not for everyone. Some may find it fascinating, while others will find it frustrating. Social work is not all about taking care of patients and getting paid; it is all about connecting, learning, and building a strong relationship with the patients in order to succeed.

Interviewer: Throughout your experience, what types of clients have been most difficult to work with?

Burns: I indeed find it difficult working with angry and uncooperative patients, although I never give up on taking care of them. In such a situation, I usually put myself in the client’s shoes and focus on the good. I think that most uncooperative patients are those who have lost hope or feel betrayed. The best way to approach such clients is by approaching them in various ways and learn which method works best on them.

Interviewer: What are the strengths and weaknesses of being a social worker?

Burns: I believe that good communication skill is one strength of being a social worker. They can communicate with patients well and are also extremely responsible for every action taken. However, a social worker can be too emotional, especially when sympathizing with the patients.

Interviewer: Did you find it useful to take part in the interview?

Burns: Yes, the interview has been excellent and informative; it is evident that social work needs to be looked into in a broader perspective to enable people to understand what it means. I hope my answers will be useful in your research and for furthers analysis and also thank you for creating your time to interview me.

Personal Reflection

I found the interview with Burns to be very interesting and informative since she was able to provide all the answers in details. She also provided personal reflections on every question showing that she understood what was asked very well. With my strong interest in patient welfare, there is no question that my interview with a social worker would not bear fruits. After doing a small amount of internet research, I found out that NHPCO is among the best performing social work agencies in the United States. I decided to contact the agency with high hopes of scheduling an interview with one of the medical social workers. I made a call to NHPCO and spoke to the receptionist about what my agenda. I was more specific that I wanted to interview a medical social worker since they are experienced with handling all types of patients. Luckily, he receptionist assured to schedule an interview the following week.

I felt nervous before the interview with Janelle Burns but I presented myself in the most knowledgeable and professional manner. After sometime, I realized that she was quite a jovial person and she was able to interact with me both personally and professionally. Throughout the interview, I had attempted to keep Burns centered, allowing her to direct the conversation, especially on the topics she felt more comfortable with. With such a conversation, I was able to keep communication interactive and build rapport. After the interview, I felt that meeting Janelle Burns enable me to know more about social work and what it takes to become an excellent social work practitioner.

The interview, as well as the agency, came out as I expected since I was able to uncover all the concepts about social work. What I loved most about the agency is that they are open to anyone and any topic of discussion no matter who you are. They are also very welcoming and provide interviewers with a fascinating experience. I found nothing to dislike about the visit and the interview since I was able to accomplish what I wanted. Above all, I understood that social work demands vigilance, emotional intelligence, unweaving dedication, and resilience to ensure that patients are provided with the best services and care.


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