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Social Work Month
March 2022

March is Social Work Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the wonderful achievements and contributions of social workers past and present.

The theme for Social Work Month 2022 is “The Time is Right for Social Work”. At Calvary, our team of social workers plays a critical role in our mission as a hospital and in the community. We are proud of the work our social workers do to bring our patients and their loved ones physical, spiritual, and emotional comfort.

A Historical Look at Palliative and Hospice Care


The word Hospice comes from the Latin word “hospitium”, meaning host and guest. The root of the word means to extend welcome and to provide a safe harbor. Hospice, or “guesthouse,” describes the practice of caring for the sick and dying. It traces its roots to the medieval Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St. John.


Social or “charitable” medical work remained chiefly a religious or familial undertaking throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The modern use of “hospice” as care specifically for the terminally ill began with Jeanne Garnier’s 19th Century Dames de Calvaire in Lyon, France, and the Irish Sisters of Charity founding Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin Ireland in 1879.


In 1899, a small group of widows in New York, inspired by a group in France called Women of Calvary, began caring for destitute women with terminal diseases. They took care of the women first in their own homes; then in two brownstones they acquired on Perry Street in Greenwich Village.

History of Hospice

Modern approaches to Hospice also called the “hospice movement,” is generally credited to Dame Cecily Saunders, a trained medical social worker who founded St. Christopher’s Hospice in 1967.

St. Christopher’s was the first hospice to couple teaching and research with critical care, and also established standards for palliative care that are now followed worldwide.

As the 20th century progressed, care for the dying became increasingly complicated by, among other things, advances in life-extending medical treatments with subjective quality-of-life implications.

To address these issues, the National Association of Social Workers issued its 1993 policy statement reiterating that client self-determination was, is, and must remain the determining factor in end-of-life situations, as in all others.

Social Work: A Tradition of Care

At Calvary, our Social Workers continue this tradition as part of our interdisciplinary approach, which focuses on looking at each patient as a ‘whole person encompassing their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Calvary Hospital’s social workers, also known as our Family Care team, provide appropriately sensitive care to our patients and their loved ones.

Debbie Feldman, JD, LCSW-R
Vice President for Pastoral Care, Bereavement, and Family Care Services

“Caring for a family member or friend who is seriously ill, especially at the end of life, can take an immense amount of physical and emotional energy

Our family care team is here to help people both navigate and cope with one of the most challenging times in their lives.”

Kate Mohan
Assistant Director of Support Services at Calvary Hospital

"Social workers enter every situation with a gigantic 'toolbox', and use whatever 'tools' (or skills) are required.

Some patients’ families need help navigating Medicaid or other government services. Others require emotional support."

Karen Wilkow, LCSW, ACHP-SW
Brooklyn Campus

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel honored to work with patients and their families at such an intimate time in their lives. Most people I have cared for and worked with have a special place in my heart.

I think because of my comfort level discussing end-of-life issues, many people have shared that they are so surprised that I continue to be very upbeat. I enjoy laughing and listening to life stories that are shared with me. I have learned so much from so many patients."

Patient and Family Care

The patients and families who come to Calvary need specialized care. Often facing the emotions of anticipatory grief, associated with the painful realization of their own or loved ones’ mortality, our social work team helps these individuals negotiate hurdles and transitions. While the social workers at Calvary cannot alter fundamental realities, they listen with understanding and specialized training designed to provide comfort and alleviate every possible concern.

Medical Social Work

Calvary’s social workers are members of a highly specialized subset within the social work field. These caring professionals play a critical role in our patients’ medical care and emotional comfort. Our social workers assess individual patient and family situations, working hand in hand with other healthcare professionals, to coordinate the delivery of critical care and the emotional and spiritual support our patients and their loved ones require.