Abstract: Cross-National Comparisons of Social Worker Self-Care: The Global Self-Care Initiative (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

92P Cross-National Comparisons of Social Worker Self-Care: The Global Self-Care Initiative

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Justin "Jay" Miller, PhD, Associate Dean for Research, University of Kentucky, KY
Sheila Barnhart, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
Kalea Benner, PhD, Asst. Prof, University of Kentucky, KY
Molly Bode, Student, University of Kentucky, KY
Background: Few would dispute the importance of self-care in helping to assuage inimical employment conditions. Collectively, authors have postulated that self-care can prevent, assuage, and/or address a host of adverse employment circumstances, including stress, vicarious trauma, and professional burnout, among others. Undoubtedly, these benefits can go a long way in ensuring adept service delivery. 

Benefits notwithstanding, research about self-care is limited. Specifically, a literature review revealed no published works examining international comparisons related to self-care. This project contributes to remedying these limitations.

Method: This study utilized data collected from social workers (N=4,342) in nine-countries (i.e., Portugal, Slovakia, Finland, Ethiopia, U.S., etc.) via a self-care project known as The Global Self-Care Initiative (GSCI). The overarching purpose of this study included examining differences in self-care practice scores, both between and within countries. Ancillary foci included inspecting relationships between various demographic and professional variables and investigating significant predictors of self-care. All data were collected between 2017–2019 using the Self-Care Practices Scale (SCPS), an 18-item measure designed to examine the frequency in which participants engaged in self-care practices. Where appropriate, items were translated and back-translated into languages consistent with the country in question. Participants responded to online survey or paper/pencil invitations, depending on country.  

Results: Overall, data indicates that social workers, no matter the country, engaged in moderate amounts of self-care. Interestingly, European practitioners engaged in significantly higher self-care practices than did those in the U.S. Analyses revealed a number of within-group differences in self-care practices, by work focus, education, and financial status, among others. Significant predictors of self-care included perceived health status (self-report) and workload (hours worked per week).

Implications: This study contributes to an empirical knowledge base and uniquely addresses limitations in the current literature. An exhaustive literature review of relevant databases suggest that this study is the only work to examine cross-national comparisons of social worker self-care practices. Data suggest that there may be pragmatic implications gleaned from examining practice-culture dynamics and how these factors impact self-care. This study also highlights benefits and challenges (e.g., instrumentation, etc.) associated with international research collaborations. Participants who engage in this presentation will: (a) appreciate the importance of self-care research in relation to social work education/practice; (b) understand findings related to this study; and, (c) consider research implications for ongoing international work in this area.