A Call for Hope-Centered Work: A Preliminary Study of Oncology Social Workers’ Perceptions of the Role and Value of Hope at End-of-Life
This paper examines the role and value of hope in the experiences of people with cancer at end-of-life according to the social workers who counsel them. Despite discussion of hope’s value in social work literature, it continues to be de-emphasized in end-of-life (EOL) social work training and discourse in favor of theories of grief, loss and bereavement. In an online survey, social workers affiliated with a national oncology social work organization (n = 67) responded to closed-ended items. They assessed personal views on and experiences of hope, views on hope within the context of EOL and work experiences with EOL patients, felt competency in assessment of and engagement with hopefulness/hopelessness, and related training and support. Several open-ended items were also included and provided supplemental qualitative data. Participants recognized the value of hope hypothetically. However, their responses showed disagreement about the value of hope when it was considered within the context of EOL. They felt comfortable engaging in hope-centered discussion with EOL patients, yet did not routinely assess or encourage exploration of hope or hopelessness. There is a need for qualitative research to further explore social workers’ understanding of hope at EOL and therapeutic engagement related to it.
KeywordsHope Hopelessness Oncology End-of-life Cancer Palliative care Oncology social work
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
There are no conflicts of interest to report.
Research Involving Human Rights
This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.
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