End-of-Life Care Field of Practice

The School of Social Work developed its innovative End-of-Life Care Field of Practice to foster social work leadership in the important work of providing services in end-of-life care, palliative care, and bereavement. At the present time, there is a growing need for professionally trained social workers who can provide high quality services to people at end-of life, to their families and to those who are bereaved.

The coursework prepares students for practice in hospice programs and in hospital social work in pediatric and adult oncology, palliative care units, long term care facilities and other social work settings focused on the needs of individuals at the end of life, their families and bereaved individuals. It is based on the family-centered and community-based principles which permeate the entire curriculum in the MSW Program.

In order to foster social work leadership in this important field of practice, the curriculum emphasizes both direct practice skills and leadership in transforming organizations, service delivery systems, and policy so as to improve support for individuals at the end of their lives, for those who are mourning, and for their families.

Cultural Competence
Because the School of Social Work has established cultural competence as a core principle in its curriculum, the end-of-life care field of practice emphasizes cultural competence in end-of-life services. Students learn to value and build on the cultural strengths that diverse cultures groups use in dealing with end-of-life and bereavement. Diverse populations in Iowa include Latinos, Native Americans, African Americans, many refugee and immigrant groups, and a diverse range of populations from varied ethnic backgrounds. These groups include people who speak a range of languages other than English. Diverse groups also include people with disabilities, people of different ages and age cohorts, people of different socio-economic groups, and people with different sexual orientations.


The End-of-Life Care Field of Practice was developed with initial funding from the Project on Death in America, Open Society Institute, Soros Foundation. The goal of the Project on Death in America is to transform the culture of death in America. The Project was funded as a Social Work Leadership Development Award to Susan A. Murty, Coordinator of the Program from 2001-2003. It is intended to develop social work leaders in the field of end-of-life care. The current Coordinator is Yvonne Farley.


End-of-life services are based on the values of the hospice movement which include patient-directed treatment, services focused on the family as well as the patient, a focus on pain control and palliative care, a continuum of services available in the home and in inpatient settings, and integrated services provided by an interdisciplinary team and focused on medical, social, and spiritual needs.