Self-care methods of social workers working in end-of-life care


  • Suzi Gallagher Registered Social Worker, Kirikiriroa, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Lareen Cooper School of Social Work, Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand


self-care, end-of-life care, social workers, supervision, compassion fatigue, spirituality


INTRODUCTION: Most people experience some form of grief and loss during their lifetimes; some even choose to work amongst it every day. Navigating through the effects of this can be an arduous task on a personal level, but what about on a professional level? Social workers are becoming more prominent in end-of-life settings and, whilst they often are well versed in self- care, how does this change when working around death and dying on a daily basis? This study sought to explore these questions and gain a greater understanding of social workers.

METHODS: This is a qualitative research study where three semi-structured interviews of social workers working in end-of-life (EOL) care were conducted to explore their perspectives of self- care regarding their profession, and to gain a greater understanding of what is beneficial for them and what requires more work.

FINDINGS: All participants had both personal and professional self-care journeys that have enabled them to avoid burnout or compassion fatigue during their careers. Whilst each participant had had some form of training on death and dying or grief and loss, there was a clear lack of job-specific training to support them through their work.

CONCLUSION: This research report highlighted three key themes for EOL social workers: personal experience of death and dying; their own self-care strategies and practices; and limitations around specific training on death and dying. Results of this study urge social workers and education providers to seek out further training development and opportunities in EOL care.

Author Biographies

Suzi Gallagher, Registered Social Worker, Kirikiriroa, Aotearoa New Zealand

Suzi Gallagher is a Registered Social Worker based in Kirikiriroa. She completed her Masters of Applied Social Work in 2019 and is now a Crisis Response Social Worker in the sexual violence sector. Suzi is also a Board Member for Rape Prevention Education (RPE) in Tamaki Makaurau. 

Lareen Cooper, School of Social Work, Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand

Lareen Cooper is a Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work, Massey University. She teaches and writes in social policy and management, and supervises a wide range of practice research. She has an extensive background in health services executive management in District Health Boards in New Zealand. She has served for five years as a Member of the Social Workers Registration Board Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal.


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How to Cite

Gallagher, S., & Cooper, L. (2023). Self-care methods of social workers working in end-of-life care. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 35(3), 89–100. Retrieved from



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