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Developing Australian Practice and Competency Standards for Social Workers in the End of Life and Palliative Care

This research was into the social work role when working with people who had palliative care needs. The action research project also looked at the synergy between the identified needs of people requiring palliative care, the needs of their family members and care givers and the skills and competencies of social workers working with them across different care settings.

Significant findings in relation to the role of social work included the dominance of the medical model on structures and the provision of therapeutic interventions, which for many social workers created tension with their values and knowledge base; that social work is integral to the development and maintenance of the multidisciplinary team; that the breadth of knowledge and scope of practice of social workers is poorly understood by other medical and allied health care professionals and that there is very poor integration of mental health assessment or delivery of appropriate and timely interventions into the palliative care pathway.

This research made an important contribution to getting a Commonwealth Palliative Care Grant that enabled the delivery of training for social workers and other health care professionals in understanding the bio-psychosocial and existential needs of this cohort and evidence based interventions that can make a positive impact on the lives of people at a very vulnerable time and often difficult time. This research has also helped form a foundation document for the development of Practice Standards and Clinical Practice Guidelines to guide social workers in this field of practice and across care settings.

Julianne Whyte
Amaranth Foundation
AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers