In this thesis, we researched the role of social workers in hospital palliative care teams. Our focus was the attitude of social workers, members of a hospital palliative care team, towards dying and death, their role in palliative care teams, the methods they employ in the process of helping and supporting the dying and their relatives, and the forms of relief and relaxation available to them.
In the theoretical part, we first introduce the societal attitudes towards dying and death and continue with the process of dying and palliative care where the latter is identified as a human right. We then define social work, emphasising the more significant principles, and continue with the definition of hospital social work, illustrating the roles of a hospital social worker. We conclude with the methods of social work used in health care, with a particular emphasis on communication.
In the empirical part, we present the results of a survey in which five female social workers and one male social worker participated – all of them healthcare professionals working in hospitals and all of them members of a palliative team. The results obtained in the survey are then associated with the theory of social work.
Our research indicates that both female and male social workers who are part of hospital palliative care possess a similar attitude to dying and death. They accept death as an inevitable natural process in life and associate it with physical pain and suffering. Strong emotions are often present. In their work, social workers take on different roles and perform varied tasks. The most common roles are: the coordinator, the planner, the representative, the caregiver, the mediator, the confidant, the listener, and the advocate. One of the most important tasks of hospital social workers is to research the world of the patient, as well as to conduct interviews with all participants and co-create solutions. In their work, they rely on various principles and use many methods, the common goal of which is to support and help the patient and his relatives. They see great importance in conversation. As their work is often very stressful, they need relief, which most of them do not receive at work. Only a few have the opportunity for an intervision, to talk to a psychologist or co-workers, or to meet with their palliative team.
The thesis lists a number of proposals for improvement, namely, introduction and regulation of palliative teams in all general and specialised hospitals in Slovenia, inclusion and equal treatment of social workers in palliative teams, organisation of training for social workers employed in hospitals in the field of palliative care, introduction of intervisions and supervisions for hospital social workers and all the other members of a palliative team.