Hospice and palliative social workers' experiences with clients at risk of suicide

Karla T. Washington, David L. Albright, Debra Parker Oliver, L. Ashley Gage, Alexandria Lewis, Megan J. Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: We sought to determine the frequency with which hospice and palliative social workers encounter patients, family caregivers, and other clients at risk of suicide, and to discover the extent to which hospice and palliative social workers feel prepared to address issues related to suicide in their professional practice. Method: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of hospice and palliative social workers, recruiting a convenience sample of volunteer respondents through advertisements at professional conferences and listservs, and via social media accounts associated with national organizations, state hospice and palliative care associations, and individual healthcare professionals. Results: Most respondents reported having worked with patients, family caregivers, or other clients who had exhibited warning signs of suicide during the previous year. Fewer respondents indicated that they had worked with patients and family members who had attempted or died by suicide. While the majority of respondents believed they possessed sufficient knowledge and skills to intervene effectively with individuals at risk of suicide, they indicated that additional education on this topic would be valuable for their professional practice. Significance of results: These study results suggest that suicide-related competencies are important in the practice of hospice and palliative social work. Future education and training efforts should include skill development in addition to knowledge building.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)664-671
Number of pages8
JournalPalliative and Supportive Care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Hospice
  • Palliative care
  • Social work
  • Suicide


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