Dissertation Abstracts

Social workers’ perceptions of their role in providing palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses: A qualitative study among social workers in primary care settings in Namibia.

Author: Freeman, Rachel J, rfreeman@mweb.com.na
Department: Human Sciences Sociology
University: University of South Africa, South Africa
Supervisor: Dr Zanetta Jansen
Year of completion: 2015
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Social Workers' , Perspectives of their role , in provinding , Palliative care to people with
Areas of Research: Professional Groups , Health , Comparative Sociology


According to Bomba, Morrissey and Leven (2010:75) social workers can provide an essential link between patients, families and medical providers, in general, because, “the social worker has the skills to work with individuals in diverse environments, understand their social ecological contexts, and help them make meaning of their decision-making experiences”. Social workers are able to holistically assess the palliative care needs of the patient and families with life-limiting illnesses. These life-limiting illnesses would include communicable diseases (e.g. HIV and AIDS), non-communicable diseases (such as cancer, cardiac, diabetes, respiratory failure, multiple sclerosis). In Namibia, there is minimal work, if any scientific research evidence from a social workers’ perspective has been undertaken, in exploring social workers’ perceptions of their role in providing palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses. The absence of context-relevant Namibian literature sources indicates a degree of silence with regard to social workers’ role in the provision of palliative care. As a starting point in addressing this deficiency, the rationale for this study is to enable social workers to narrate their perceptions of their role providing palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses. The World Health Organization (WHO, 2002) defines palliative care as "an approach that improves quality of life of patients and their families facing problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual". WHO (2002) states that palliative care focus on the relief of suffering of any kind. This study is important in order to gain a deeper understanding of the important role social workers perform in improving the quality of life of patients with life-limiting illnesses and parts of the study will be generalizable as far as the occupation of Social Work goes. It wishes to investigate factors that hinder or help social workers’ ability to provide palliative. The researcher wishes to establish how social work education influences social workers competencies providing palliative care. This will be explored in the perceptions, lived experiences and narratives of social workers. It is hoped that the study will identify and fill the gap that other researchers in the field of research in Namibia have not focused on. The study will be using Grounded Theory by Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Glaser’s subsequent work (Glaser, 1979 & 1998) to explore social workers’ perceptions of their role providing palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses. The overarching goal of the study will be to contribute to the existing pool of information that could be used to benefit palliative care social work. The study aims to make an academic contribution by filling the gap in producing helpful training tools which will equip social workers with competencies necessary in the provision of palliative care. From doing this research, the researcher hopes to generate and impart new knowledge in the area of palliative care social work in Namibia and beyond, thereby anticipating breaking new grounds for further research.

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