Social work involvement in advance care planning: Findings from a large survey of social works in hospice and palliative care settings.
Stein, Gary L.
Cagle, John G.
Christ, Grace H.
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Background: Few data are available describing the involvement and activities of social workers in advance care planning (ACP). Objective: We sought to provide data about (1) social worker involvement and leadership in ACP conversations with patients and families; and (2) the extent of functions and activities when these discussions occur. Methods: We conducted a large web-based survey of social workers employed in hospice, palliative care, and related settings to explore their role, participation, and self-rated competency in facilitating ACP discussions. Respondents were recruited through the Social Work Hospice and Palliative Care Network and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Descriptive analyses were conducted on the full sample of respondents (N = 641) and a subsample of clinical social workers (N = 456). Responses were analyzed to explore differences in ACP involvement by practice setting. Results: Most clinical social workers (96%) reported that social workers in their department are conducting ACP discussions with patients/families. Majorities also participate in, and lead, ACP discussions (69% and 60%, respectively). Most respondents report that social workers are responsible for educating patients/families about ACP options (80%) and are the team members responsible for documenting ACP (68%). Compared with other settings, oncology and inpatient palliative care social workers were less likely to be responsible for ensuring that patients/families are informed of ACP options and documenting ACP preferences. Conclusions: Social workers are prominently involved in facilitating, leading, and documenting ACP discussions. Policy-makers, administrators, and providers should incorporate the vital contributions of social work professionals in policies and programs supporting ACP.
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