Help me find a career working with the dying
April 10, 2011 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a career working with the dying and/or those close to them.

I'd really like to work with those at the end of their lives or with those who are facing/have recently faced the death of a loved one. Can you give me any info on what my options might be? People have told me about working in hospice, but how do I do that professionally (ie for money)? What degree, etc, do I need? I've also thought about being a grief counselor. Any info you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
posted by Waldo Jeffers to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From the Hospice Foundation.
posted by cooker girl at 2:59 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: People dealing with death, either their own or that of someone close to them, need a lot of services. They need medical care, help with personal care and hygiene, mental health services, financial planning, funeral planning, grief counseling, legal services, religious services, logistics, and tons of other services. What sort of work do you like to do? What skills do you currently have? In what way do you want to "work with" people?
posted by decathecting at 3:01 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: Decathecting has a great point - any number of professions are in a position to help people dealing with death. That said, it seems from your question that you're most interested in help people navigate through the emotional aspects.

If you wanted to do private practice as a counselor you'd need to check your local laws for licensure as a counselor. In the U.S., different states have different requirements.

If you aren't looking to hang out a shingle then I think hospice or medical social work would be a good fit. A Master of Social Work is what you'd do for that. If you go to school full time the MSW is usually a 2 year program. Sometimes you can find jobs with a Bachelor of Social Work.

Nursing may be another option. A B.S. in Nursing is usually the path to becoming an RN (registered nurse).
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 3:35 PM on April 10, 2011

I think that in general, one of the best ways to explore health-related careers is to volunteer in a health care setting. I would look into becoming a hospice volunteer, and then learn as much as you can about the various people who work with hospice patients. When you start meeting people in various professions, ask them if you can shadow them or do informational interviews.
posted by craichead at 3:47 PM on April 10, 2011

Best answer: My mother is a nurse and use to work in palliative care in an oncology (cancer) ward. This meant she spent almost all of her (working) time around dying patients and their loved ones. I'm not entirely sure how she did it, but she did it for years. She's now working in critical care.

You would, of course, need to get yourself nursing qualifications. But the upside of that is that, if it turned out that palliative care wasn't for you, there is about a billion other sorts of nursing you can do instead. Much of it rewarding in its own way, or so I hear.
posted by damonism at 6:12 PM on April 10, 2011

Hey there, I work for a palliative care service in Australia. We have nurses (RNs, ENs, NPs) registrars, counselors, a welfare officer (helps with financial problems/advocacy with government departments etc) psychologists and spiritual care/pastoral care workers workers on our payroll. We also use from time to time: Art therapists, music therapists, occupational therapists, and other allied health professionals. There are also a stack of volunteers who do things from social visits/respite time to biography writing to massage.

From enquiries we get at our service, there seems to be a large number of counseling grads around. Likelihood of getting a job with a service like ours is slim if you don't have palliative care experience. You may want to try volunteering in a hospice or with a home services provider, or try to get a student placement in one of these services. In Australia there are also phone services specific to grief that may be a great way to start your career.

Have you thought about becoming a funeral celebrant? You need not be affiliated with a funeral home, but if you write and speak well it may be a good gig for you. Some people may want to preplan, otherwise you would be exclusively working with the families. It need not be your sole business, I think a counselor would make an excellent funeral celebrant (and I've known some of our staff to conduct services for clients where more traditional services weren't appropriate)

Some palliative care requirements are more niche that others, I tend to think of children's hospitals and prison settings as particularly challenging. You may want to explore what particular needs people and carers in these settings may have.

Good luck.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:15 PM on April 10, 2011

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