There is a shortage of social workers who have palliative care expertise. The aging U.S. population and advances in extending life for seriously ill persons require social workers in a wide range of health care and other settings with specialized palliative care expertise, as well as those with basic competence in palliative care. The objective of the present study was to document course content on palliative care in MSW programs in the United States and Canada.
A cross-sectional design with an online questionnaire was used. All 248 accredited MSW programs in the United States and 32 programs in Canada were invited to participate. The measures included the characteristics of the courses on palliative care.
Of the 105 participating programs, only 10 had courses dedicated to palliative care, 9 of which were part of a specialization/certificate program. Few programs had plans to develop a dedicated course. There were 106 courses in 63 MSW programs with some content on palliative care. The majority of these had <25%, and few had at least 50%, of palliative care content.
Curricula are needed for preparing MSW graduates for specialty hospice and palliative care practice and non-specialty practice. While there are practice competencies for specialty practitioners, consensus on a core curriculum for all MSW students would be beneficial. Consensus on basic palliative care knowledge and skills for non-specialty social workers in health care and other settings and subsequent curriculum development are also needed. Innovative ways in which to introduce basic and more specialized content on palliative care into the already-crowded MSW curricula will be needed.
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