Coping with Existential and Emotional Challenges: Development and Validation of the Self-Competence in Death Work Scale

Wallace Chi Ho Chan*, Agnes Fong Tin, Karen Lok Yi Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Context Palliative care professionals often are confronted by death in their work. They may experience challenges to self, such as aroused emotions and queries about life's meaningfulness. Assessing their level of "self-competence" in coping with these challenges is crucial in understanding their needs in death work. Objectives This study aims to develop and validate the Self-Competence in Death Work Scale (SC-DWS). Methods Development of this scale involved three steps: 1) items generated from a qualitative study with palliative care professionals, 2) expert panel review, and 3) pilot test. Analysis was conducted to explore the factor structure and examine the reliability and validity of the scale. Helping professionals involved in death work were recruited to complete questionnaires comprising the SC-DWS and other scales. Results A total of 151 participants were recruited. Both one-factor and two-factor structures were found. Emotional and existential coping were identified as subscales in the two-factor structure. Correlations of the whole scale and subscales with measures of death attitudes, meaning in life, burnout and depression provided evidence for the construct validity. Discriminative validity was supported by showing participants with bereavement experience and longer experience in the profession and death work possessed a significantly higher level of self-competence. Reliability analyses showed that the entire scale and subscales were internally consistent. Conclusion The SC-DWS was found to be valid and reliable. This scale may facilitate helping professionals' understanding of their self-competence in death work, so appropriate professional support and training may be obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-107
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number1
Early online date18 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes

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