Characterizing social worker and chaplain interactions with parents of critically ill children with cancer


Characterizing social worker and chaplain interactions with parents of critically ill children with cancer


Lentini N; Martinez E; Michelson K



Journal Of Clinical Oncology




Cancer Epidemiology; Clergy; Critically Ill Patient; Female; Male; Social Worker; Child; Clinical Article; Content Analysis; Doctor Patient Relation; Family Study; Human; Mortality; Palliative Therapy; Pediatric Intensive Care Unit


Background: Parents of children with cancer admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) often obtain support from social workers and/or chaplains (SWs/Cs). Yet, empirical work describing the roles and activities of SWs/Cs caring for patients in the PICU is lacking. This study examined the roles of SWs/Cs caring for critically ill children with cancer and their families. Methods: Parents of patients with cancer expected to have a PICU stay > 72 hours, ongoing involvement with palliative care, or a pediatric index of mortality score > 4 were invited to participate. These criteria were meant to identify patients with more complicated PICU admissions. The SWs/Cs caring for these families in the PICU were also invited to participate. SWs/Cs audio recorded information about their encounters with parents and patients, specifically, who was present, the kinds of supports provided, and the discussion topics. These recordings were analyzed using content analysis resulting in broad categories describing support provided to the families by SWs/Cs. Results: In total, 3 SWs and 3 Cs submitted recordings about 34 encounters with families of 9 patients. Categories of activities and supports identified from these recordings included: discussing the child's condition, assessing parent or child coping, assessing the role of faith, discussing communication between parents and the medical team or advocating for the family with the medical team, providing emotional support to patients and families, discussing concerns outside of the hospital (family, financial, work), and providing legal and/or logistical support. SWs/Cs, in general, provided very similar services to families. Conclusions: SWs and Cs caring for PICU patients with cancer and their families have overlapping roles in providing emotional, communication, and logistical support. Future work will identify barriers and facilitators to SWs and Cs providing support to critically ill children with cancer.


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Oncology 2017 List



Lentini N; Martinez E; Michelson K, “Characterizing social worker and chaplain interactions with parents of critically ill children with cancer,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed August 13, 2022,

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