A Mixed-Method Study on the Palliative Care Capacity of Social Workers in Flanders (Belgium): A Call to Expand Their Role

Brent Taels, Kirsten Hermans, Chantal Van Audenhove, Joachim Cohen, Koen Hermans, Anja Declercq

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This study explores the palliative care capacity of social workers in Flanders. First, it examines the frequency with which social workers in Flanders are currently performing palliative care tasks. Second, this study assesses their attitudes and competencies regarding the performance of these tasks. Third, as contextual factors also influence this performance, this study explores the level of appreciation experienced by social workers in Flanders. To achieve these objectives, a mixed-methods explanatory sequential design was used. Quantitative data were collected by distributing electronic survey questionnaires on QUALTRICS© to a theoretical sample of social workers in Flemish hospitals, community health clinics, nursing homes, home care, and health insurance services. A total of 499 social workers completed the survey in April and May 2021, of whom 352 met the eligibility criteria and were retained for analysis. Qualitative data were collected based on online focus groups between June and September 2021, in which a total of 24 social workers discussed the main survey results. Transcripts from the focus groups were analysed by using the framework method. The results indicate that the current palliative care capacity of responding social workers in Flanders is limited to tasks related to client assessment and referral, while their potential role extends beyond these tasks. With an expanded role, social workers would be better able to address the social dimensions of care, engage in politicising work, and, in turn, contribute to a holistic and multidimensional approach to palliative care. However, this study illustrates the need to increase the competencies and actual involvement of social workers in tasks associated with this expanded role.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5802996
Number of pages10
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2023


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