Identifying Factors Which Influence Social Work Students' Willingness to Address End-of-Life Care Issues
Description of the problem: Palliative and Hospice care as a service delivery system in End-of-life (EOL) care plays an important role for terminally ill patients and their families. Social work is an identified core service of hospice care and therefore it is essential that social workers are highly educated about EOL care. The need to address EOL care issues throughout social work education along with extending the role of social workers within (EOL) care has been extensively discussed in social work education (National Association Social Work, 2004). Acquiring insight into social work students’ knowledge and understanding of EOL care is critical when considering what issues require additional attention in social work education.
Study Objectives: The aims of this study were to explore the knowledge and attitudes of social work students in regards to hospice care, perceived role of social workers in EOL care, self-determination and the students’ preparedness to provide EOL care. In addition, another aim was to identify significant factors that influence social work students’ willingness to address and work in the field of EOL care.
Method: A cross-sectional (correlational) design for descriptive and explanatory purpose(s) was used with non-probability sampling. A survey was conducted with social work students (N=102) who were recruited from across programs in a School of Social Work in the Southeast. Data was analyzed with descriptive and multivariate regression analysis.
Results: The results of the study indicate that all participants were aware of hospice care, but 63.7 percent of participants’ indicated that they were only moderately aware. Twenty percent of the students indicated having experience working with terminally ill patients and their families, and 28.4 percent received EOL education or training. This study found that those students who had previous experiences working with terminally ill patients and who had received formal training were more likely to intend to address EOL issues than those who did not. Additionally, high levels of knowledge were significantly associated with better attitudes towards EOL care (r=.520, p<.001). Regression analysis revealed that the model was statistically significant at the a = .05 level, F(3, 98)=36.065, p<.001. The preparedness to provide EOL care (a = .05 level, t(98)=6.672, p<.001), the emphasis of the self-determination as an ethical principle of social work (a = .05 level, t(98)=3.327, p=.001), and the perceived social workers’ role (a = .05 level, t(98)=3.281, p=.001) were all predictors for the willingness of providing EOL care .
Discussion: Findings highlight deficiencies in social work education related to EOL issues. There needs to be a more systematic approach towards EOL curriculum in social work education to enhance the competencies of social work students. Future directions in social work education should consider infusing EOL care modules into all practice course work. Familiarizing all social work students with EOL care will contribute to a better-prepared work force.