Social workers discuss changing landscape of palliative care at CHPCA Conference

S.W.I.G Co-chairs Zelda Freitas, SW- Coordinator of the development of practice in support of Caregivers & Patrick Durivage, SW-Coordinator of the development of the practice in Community Palliative Care, Center for Research & Expertise in Social Gerontology, CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

Topics of interest for Social Workers were front and center at the last CHPCA conference that took place in September 2017. On September 21rst, 2017 a social work satellite took place which was entitled: The Changing Landscape of Palliative Care and its impact on SW practice; Building the capacity for Advocacy. This satellite focussed on championing the role of advocacy in social work (SW) practice. Two tales of successful advocacy were highlighted with renowned advocates Ms. Sharon Baxter, CHPCA and Ms. Teresa Dellar, WIPCR who shared their insights on the role of advocacy in social work at the local and international level with the audience. An exchange followed on current and emerging issues that impact SW and where leadership and advocacy can be a possibility in multiple realms. Creating a space for social workers through the CHPCA website and at the conference are ways that advocacy can take place. This allows us to have a voice in developing SW practice and expertise alongside other disciplines. Being involved in local communities’ compassionate care initiatives, knowledge exchange and improvement of care are some ways to advocate. As social worker and executive director of the West Island Palliative Care residence, Teresa Dellar stated; “dying is a social issue not a medical one”. Those interested in a guide entitled “8 Steps to Good Advocacy”, can contact Sharon Baxter at the CHPCA.

In the afternoon, the participants of the Social Work Interest Group Annual meeting explored the use of clinical supervision in palliative care. One of the challenges raised was access to clinical supervision. This can occur in various settings including stand-alone hospices, rural areas as well as in urban centers where a supervisor or manager may not be a social worker. The group brainstormed possible solutions. One support identified was linking with each other through the CHPCA list serve and creating a community of support.

One of the workshops presented was Revisiting the role of social workers in the context of C-14 (MAiD and Law 2(in Quebec). An overview of the laws was presented. A discussion on clinical practice and the social work role in the interdisciplinary team ensued. A group discussion and exchange based on a case study involving advanced care planning, medical directives, provision of quality palliative care and the effects of these laws on the most vulnerable members of our communities provided for an interesting discussion. One of the challenges faced by social workers is the ongoing need to advocate for good quality palliative care for all citizens and to ensure that families and significant others remain in the forefront of service delivery and planning especially in the age of MAID.

A presentation entitled Clinical Approaches to Palliative Care: Evaluation of a training program for Social Work Students based on training social work students using a modified version of SCOPE (Social Work Competencies on HPC Education) was also presented. This training was developed from the Social Work Competencies in HPC. (Bosma et al, 2010) The eleven competencies formed the foundation for the 5 training modules, with each module addressing specific social work competencies in Hospice Palliative Care (HPC).

Could a two day intensive version of SCOPE positively impact social work students’ comfort and knowledge in supporting end of life care? This project demonstrated that social work training in palliative care and EOL is long overdue, and that training can have a significant impact in the skills and comfort level of students. We can also infer that social work values and those of palliative remain compatible in many areas, including self-determination and empowerment. A second cohort is planned for the fall of 2018 followed by a publication submission. If you are interested in learning more about the SCOPE training and/or this study, please feel free to contact us.

The Social Workers Interest Group is one of several specialized interest groups maintained by the CHPCA. Members of the Interest Groups may communicate with each other through a members-only List Serve. Visit the CHPCA website to add your name to the conversation or ask to contact us directly. We are interested in hearing from you and hope to see you at the next CHPCA conference.


Bosma H, Johnston M, Cadell S et al. (2010) Creating social work competencies for practice in hospice palliative care. Palliative Medicine. 24(1):79-87

Teaching Resources for Social Work Education in Hospice Palliative Care. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, 2011.