Self-competence in death work among health and social care workers: A region-wide survey in Hong Kong

Johnny T.K. Cheung*, Doreen W.H. Au, Wallace C.H. Chan, Jenny H.Y. Chan, Kenway Ng, Jean Woo

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: According to the Quality of Death Index, Hong Kong is lagging behind many other Western and Asian countries in the category of palliative and healthcare. To ensure the provision of high-quality palliative care, it is important to explore the self-competence of health and social care workers in coping with death work including palliative care. This region-wide study aims to assess the level of self-competence with a validated Self-Competence in Death Work Scale (SC-DWS) and examine its correlates. Methods: The SC-DWS was administered to a cross-sectional convenience sample of health and social care workers across eight healthcare institutions between January and October 2016. Total scores for the 16-item SC-DWS and its Existential and Emotional subscales were calculated. We then examined sociodemographic variables (e.g., age, profession, place of employment) in relation to the total and subscale scores using multiple linear regression. Coding was conducted on responses to a final open-ended question asking about the personal views of the workers towards their self-competence in death work. Result: We collected data from 885 health and social care workers. Mean score of the SC-DWS was 60.16 (range: 16 - 80), while its Existential and Emotional subscales scored 37.90 (range: 10 - 50) and 14.46 (range: 4 - 20) respectively. Four categories of personal view towards self-competence in death work including (1) personal resources; (2) existential challenges and coping; (3) emotional challenges and coping; and (4) personal recommendations on improving self-competence were identified. In multivariate analyses, workers aged 50 or above, divorced, working in Hospice A, Rehabilitation Hospital B (where a quality improvement initiative in end-of-life care was implemented) and Acute Hospital B (a Christian institution with strong caring culture) and with personal bereavement experience had significantly higher scores, whereas nurses scored significantly lower than less-educated personal care assistants. Conclusion: There is still room for improvement in self-competence in death work among health and social care workers, particularly the young, nurses and those working in acute hospitals. Future initiatives should involve identifying barriers in individual healthcare institutions. Training of the provision of palliative care is necessary.

Original languageEnglish
Article number65
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes

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