Exploring the 'social' of social work in palliative care: working with diversity

Watts, Jacqueline H. (2013). Exploring the 'social' of social work in palliative care: working with diversity. Illness, Crisis, & Loss, 21(4) pp. 281–295.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2190/IL.21.4.b


Social work is one of a number of caring professions that contribute to the practice of palliative care that is now delivered in hospitals, hospices and in the community. Most palliative care social work is undertaken as part of a medical speciality that draws on the multidisciplinary professional team that has as its aim the meeting of practical, psychological, physical and spiritual needs of dying people and their families. This article reports case study research that explored the practice of one social worker with experience of working as part of a hospital and hospice palliative care team, both located in a diverse inner city environment. In-depth semi-structured interviewing explored the complexity of palliative care social work in this setting. Findings reveal the importance of building positive relationships with clients and the highly labour-intensive nature of this work, particularly in relation to supporting the culturally diverse needs of some dying and bereaved people. The requirement for person-centred interventions is highlighted, so as to avoid stereotypes and misunderstandings in pursuit of providing appropriate and ‘respectful care’.

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