Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
The last century has seen significant changes in how people experience death. There has been a growing discourse about end of life issues and how they affect people. Death and dying are no doubt difficult issues for people to contemplate, including professionals who work in end of life care, however research is beginning to explore how people manage the end of life and what societal issues influence it.
The purpose of this research study is to gain a deeper understanding of the values and beliefs of end of life care social workers regarding death and dying, how their experiences may affect their work with clients who are dying, as well as the supports they have access to in order to manage the challenging work they do. This study explored the experiences of six hospital social workers who work with people who are dying and their families. Qualitative research methods were utilized so that participants could fully share their unique experiences.
The findings highlighted that end of life social work is challenging, complex and fraught with tensions that can lead to frustration and stress. The narratives indicated that high value is placed on a positive dying experience, but due to certain barriers there are struggles in achieving this. Further challenges came from competing demands, such as meeting the needs of staff as well as clients. The value of the social work role was found to be a point of contention for the participants, as they struggled with power imbalances and often fought to have their professional voice heard. Finally, the interviews pointed out that social workers must manage these challenges with few formal supports. This study offers an in-depth exploration of these issues, how they have and effect on social works' involvement with people at the end of life, and what needs to change to ensure social worker's in end of life care are supported.
Vedell, Alexandra, "Death & Dying: Working with Clients at the End of Life" (2008). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4771.
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