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Q&A with Ellen Ozier, MSW, LCSW, APHSW-C, OSW-C

Why did you decide to work in palliative care? 

Being a Palliative Care Clinical Social Worker is actually a second career for me. I worked as a photojournalist for many years before I decided to return to graduate school to complete my Master’s in Social Work degree. I knew I wanted to work with more vulnerable/oppressed populations so I found my way to home/community based health care in more rural areas. I worked as a Hospice social worker for many years and also for a PACE (or Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program. I joined the UNC Inpatient Palliative Care team at UNC in July of 2019 as I saw it as a way to be involved in caring for patients, family members and/or their caregivers in a different (and very meaningful) way. We often meet people when they are facing very challenging situations (and often very difficult decisions re: their health care). Being able to elicit what is most meaningful and valuable to a patient who is facing a serious illness (and trying to advocate for a plan for their care that is most in alignment with a patient’s goals, values and wishes) is truly an honor and a privilege.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My maternal grandfather taught me at a young age about the importance of stories and of really learning how to listen. Being able to listen to people talk about their lives, about their personhood (and what is most meaningful/valuable to them as a person) is one of my favorite parts of my job. As Palliative Care clinicians (and certainly as a Palliative Care Clinical Social Worker), we are able to look beyond a list of diagnoses (and what brought someone to the hospital or into the health care system) to really focus on all aspects of a patient’s being (which includes not only how they are doing physically but also emotionally, psychosocially and spiritually). I truly value working on an interprofessional team of clinicians who bring their passion for and expertise to caring for patients and their family members/caregivers who are facing a serious illness.

What do you enjoy most about living in the Triangle area?Photo of the North Carolina coast

From the Triangle, it is only a short drive away from the coast and the mountains, making either one of these an easy weekend getaway. I really enjoy hiking on the many trail systems around the Triangle and enjoying the four, distinct seasons (fall, winter, spring and summer) we have in North Carolina. Each season brings its own gifts. I also value the diverse population in the Triangle area and the culture/arts that are a true expression and celebration of this diversity. We have many wonderful and unique venues (both indoor and outdoor) in the Triangle for live music (and for the performing arts in general). And I would highly recommend visiting one of the local Farmer’s markets as we are blessed to have many wonderful farmers who provide us with a variety of fresh, locally grown foods!

What do you like most about working at UNC or at Transitions?

For me, working at UNC feels like “home”. I think there is a collegiality at UNC that is unique (and that really enhances our work as a Palliative Care team). We also get to partner with community-based organizations across the state (like Transitions) to help us take the best possible care we can of the patients/families we serve. AND, yes, the sky really is Carolina Blue in Chapel Hill (particularly on crisp, fall, clear autumn days)!