Abstract: Exploring the Self-Care Practices of Social Workers: A Nationwide Study (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

641P Exploring the Self-Care Practices of Social Workers: A Nationwide Study

Sunday, January 19, 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
Molly Bode, Student, University of Kentucky, KY
Melissa Segress, Executive Director, Training Resource Center, University of Kentucky, KY
Background: Social Work’s professional mission is to “enhance the well-being…of all people” (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 2008, Preamble). Surely, “all people” includes the practitioners engaged in the services of the profession. Self-care is an integral component of social work practice that promotes this well-being. 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. Veritably, these benefits impact practitioner efficacy, quality of services, and client outcomes.

Despite proclamations about the importance of self-care, researchers are in the nascent stages of explicitly examining self-care as a professional practice among social workers. Indeed, a leitmotif clear in the current literature is the need for more literature. This study seeks to address these limitations.

Method: This exploratory study examined the self-care practices of self-identified social workers (N = 2,934) throughout the United States (U.S.). To collect primary data, researchers utilized the Self-Care Practices Scale to examine the frequency with which participants engaged in self-care practices. Ancillary foci included inspecting relationships between various demographic and professional variables and self-care. Participants responded to an online survey invitation sent to a variety of social work listservs and posted to a host of social media platforms. 

Results: Overall, data suggest that social workers in the sample engaged in moderate self-care practices. Analyses revealed group differences in self-care by several variables. For example, social workers employed in the East South Central Region of the U.S. (i.e., Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee) engaged in higher levels of self-care than other geographic areas. Additionally, mean total self-care scores for the White non-Hispanic social workers were significantly higher than their non-White counterparts. Other differences were detected by education level and social work licensing status. Significant predictors of self-care included perceived health status (self-report), education level, being a social work supervisor, and financial status.

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 the current study is the largest scale examination of self-care among social workers, to date. In addition, data from this study has the potential to inform systemic responses to addressing self-care issues within social work. Participants who engage in this presentation will: (a) appreciate the importance of self-care to adept social work practice; (b) understand findings related to this study; and, (c) consider research implications for better understanding self-care among social work practitioner groups.  


National Association of Social Workers [NASW] (2008). NASW Code of Ethics. (Preamble). Washington, DC: NASW.