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Social Work Month

I have recently returned from the Social Work Hospice Palliative Network (SWPHN) annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts. (Check it out at www.swhpn.org; it needs a larger Canadian presence). I have been on their board for a number of years now. I was invited to be part of the opening keynote about pediatric palliative care and presented a research poster along with a team member. It was an excellent conference with lots of good discussions about the role of social work in hospice and palliative care.

It was interesting to be there on the heels of another presentation in which I was involved. I was asked to be part of a panel on death and dying, which was put together as part of an advanced training session for field instructors. One of the panel members was highly critical of how little training social workers receive about death, dying, grief, and loss. In Canada, only a few schools offer courses in this topic area. The United States programs have a little more content, however, it is far more common that people learn on the job or out of personal interest.

I have been doing research in death, dying, and bereavement for all my academic life, and as such, I bring the conversation into the classroom as much as I can. One of my favourite teaching moments occurred in a groupwork classroom where we were role modelling endings. One student knew where I was headed in my comments and urged me not to use the “d word”.

I talk about death a lot but I realize that I do not do so much in relation to my CASWE-ACFTS work. Maybe I will start to change that.

As part of social work month I challenge my CASWE-ACFTS colleagues to bring their research and their passion into the classroom! Ensure that the students with whom you are engaged know about your research, your keynote presentations, your publications, and your service to the academic, social work, and broader community. These activities combine to create our unique and interesting social work community, that of social work education. A community that is based on critical analysis, pedagogy, policy, research, and social work values, knowledge, and skills. A community that provides opportunities for reciprocal teaching and learning moments – and for making change in the world.