I am a palliative care social worker who provides care in acute settings and understands teaching hospitals

CommunicationInterprofessionalPalliative CarePalliative Care Community Specialist

This is part 3 in the series “I am a palliative care social worker….”

After we opted against surgery, they very reasonably moved mom from the ICU to receive “comfort care” on a regular hospital floor. It was the morning after her stroke, although time no longer was the anchor from which we operated, and it was my shift to sit up with mom and listen for her gargling secretions.

Before I saw the five physicians shuffle quietly into the room at 5 a.m., I heard them methodically, one by one, reach for the hallway motion-detected sanitizer dispenser.


five times, a somber knock, a silent parade. They asked two questions: “How does she seem to be doing?” and “so the plan is still to make her comfortable?” Even in the moment, the irony of a lights-up meeting before dawn to confirm comfort, while the rest of my exhausted family tried to sleep in the awkward positions unique to visitors, struck me. I really do get it. Many people understandably fear that opting for comfort equals being abandoned in a dark room at the end of the hallway.

Until that moment, I had bought into the story we had been sold: the nurse assigned to us for the next two days happened to come from a hospice background, and she had promised to keep mom comfortable in the hospital. She had suggested that we cancel the evaluation for inpatient hospice that I had begged my way into for later that day, Christmas Eve. I am a Good Girl and I am a people-pleaser, so I had actually considered canceling the evaluation. As I heard


five more times that morning as the physicians made their way out, I shook myself awake and said aloud, “what am I thinking?” I conferred in frantic whispers with a dear work colleague who worked miracles on our behalf to confirm my hopes that mom met inpatient hospice criteria, and I met with my family. I explained that our window to transport safely to hospice was closing, and that we could never be comfortable here.

We kept the evaluation, and by afternoon my mom was at an inpatient hospice where, although I am confident they uphold good hand-washing,

there wasn’t one more “squidge-squidge.”

I am a palliative care social worker who provides care in acute settings and understands teaching hospitals, and yet I almost got stuck.

Part 4, next week….


If you missed Part 1, http://www.cupallcare.org/part-1-palliative-care-social-worker-believes-intrinsically-things-worse-death/

If you missed Part 2, http://www.cupallcare.org/palliative-care-social-worker-rooted-power-language-part-2/


Laurel Eskra Tropeano, LCSW …After receiving her MSW from New York University,Laurel completed a fellowship in the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel Medical Center. After moving to Denver and joining the palliative care community, Laurel serendipitously met like-minded social workers with whom she founded The Holding Group – a social work led consultative palliative care agency that currently provides advance care planning to Kaiser Permanente-Colorado members in long term acute care hospitals.  

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