Course Examines Cultures and Death

NASW has launched a new, free Web education course designed to provide social workers with an overview of the differences and disparities in end-of-life care and ways to address these challenges.

The course, "Achieving Cultural Competency to Reduce Health Disparities in End of Life Care," offers tools that can be used when providing services to culturally diverse individuals and their loved ones affected by dying and death, said Luisa Lopez, director of Practice, Human Rights and International Affairs at NASW.

Lopez noted that the course, which offers 2.0 continuing education credits upon successful completion of a final exam, was developed by NASW's Department of Practice, Human Rights and International Affairs with support from the Aetna Foundation.

To gain an understanding of health disparities existing in end-of-life care and strategies to overcome them, NASW conducted townhall-style meetings with different cultural groups in various sections of the U.S. in the past year.

Lopez and Alphonso Gibbs, who leads the Health Disparities in End of Life Care Project at NASW, conducted these meetings with social workers and other end-of-life care service providers in order to gather input for the course. Meetings were held in Albuquerque, N.M., San Francisco; Baltimore, Md., and Oklahoma City, Okla.

"We were able to gather a multitude of information from the different panel discussions and break-out sessions that we conducted," said Gibbs. "We incorporated the information — along with other research material — into the course."

Gibbs said social workers can benefit from taking the lessons. "Although hospice and palliative care are not new, there's still inroads to be made in discovering how various communities deal with the notions of death and dying," Gibbs said. "In specific cultures, it's handled differently, and service providers need to be diligent in learning about these cultures and appreciate their ways of dealing with death and dying."

Before taking the "Achieving Cultural Competence to Reduce Health Disparities in End of Life Care," NASW recommends first completing the basic course, "Understanding End of Life Care: The Social Worker's Role" to have a grounding in social work in end-of-life care.

The health disparities course has four lesson plans. The first explains the domains of culture as a foundation for understanding the definition of culture, ethnicity and minorities and related areas that refer to individuals and their respective communities.

The second lesson reviews cultural considerations and dynamics often experienced by loved ones who are affected by dying and death.

The third focuses on interventions to address health disparities in end-of-life care.

The last lesson highlights resources that social workers can use for clients, their loved ones and professionals to address health disparities in end-of-life care for culturally diverse people and groups.

At the end of the course, social workers will:

  • Know the health disparities that exist in end-of-life care in the U.S. and how various entities have contributed to these challenges.
  • Learn about the cultural considerations and dynamics of and for individuals and their loved ones experiencing health disparities in end-of-life care.
  • Gain knowledge about cultural competencies, related indicators and other interventions to practice in end-of-life care when working with racially and ethnically diverse populations.
  • Discover resources to improve service delivery with individuals, their loved ones and professionals.