Over the past two decades, authors, researchers, and professional entities alike have increasingly issued clarion calls for more attention to self-care within social services. More recently, empirical investigations as well as popular media, have echoed this sentiment. This increased attention to self-care is necessitated by contemporary workplace challenges such as complex caseloads, workplace bullying/mobbing, vicarious trauma, professional burnout, etc.
Increased attention notwithstanding research about self-care as a general construct and that examining self-care practices within social work, specifically, is nominal Of particular paucity are studies that examine self-care among a key social work constituency: social work administrators. This study seeks to address this limitation in the current literature.
This cross-sectional, exploratory study investigated the personal and professional self-care practices of current social work administrators (N = 201) employed in one southeastern state. Specifically, this study investigated how social work administrators fare in terms of self-care, and variable relationships that may affect self-care practices.
To collect primary data for this study, the researchers utilized the Self-Care Practices Scale to measure personal and professional self-care practices of participants. Researchers sent an electronic survey invitation to social service agencies. Potential participants were asked to consider taking part in the study and/or to forward the survey invitation to others in their network. All participants identified as administrators at a social service agency.
All data collected for this study was analyzed via IBM SPSS version 24.0. Univariate/bivariate analyses were performed to examine descriptive characteristics of the sample and examine correlations between demographic and professional characteristics. ANOVAs or independent sample t-tests were conducted to investigate differences between key categorical variables with appropriate sample sizes at each level on the dependent variables (i.e., self-compassion and self-care scores). Lastly, multivariate analyses were performed to explore the effects key predictor variables may have on self-care practices.
Findings suggest that administrators engage in self-care with some regularity, which is inconsistent with previous, albeit limited, research about self-care and social workers. Results revealed significant relationships for personal self-care and years in social work practice and perceived health status. Professional self-care was significantly correlated with hours worked per week years in social work practice, and perceived health status.
Data indicate significant group differences in professional and personal self-care practices, alike, by financial status. In summary, those with greater financial stability reported engaging in significantly higher self-care practices. Multiple regression analyses revealed that perceived health status and years in social work practice significantly predicted personal and professional self-care practices, respectively.
This study is the first known to the authors to explicitly examine personal and professional self-care among social work administrators. Findings from this study suggest that administrators engage in self-care regularly, which is inconsistent with previous research on social work practitioners. This study offers pragmatic educational and practice implications for improving self-care practices among administrators, specifically, and social workers, more generally.