Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Social Work

Degree Program

Social Work, PhD

Committee Chair

BrintzenhofeSzoc, Karlynn

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Kayser, Karen

Committee Member

Kayser, Karen

Committee Member

Head, Barbara

Committee Member

Schapmire, Tara

Author's Keywords

pediatric oncology; social work; job analysis; role delineation; Delphi


This dissertation is an examination of the tasks most important to the pediatric oncology social work role. It begins with an argument that pediatric oncology social work is a blend of four social work specialties: generalist medical social work, oncology social work, pediatric social work, and hospice and palliative care social work. Studies report pediatric oncology social workers feel unprepared for numerous tasks related to their role. Despite calls for increased education and training opportunities, few are available. Until now, there has been no study evaluating the tasks that pediatric oncology social workers deem most important to their role, nor any that evaluate practitioners’ level of confidence in performing those tasks. This dissertation is divided into five chapters. Chapter One provides an overview of the pediatric oncology social work role and a high-level overview of the study. Chapter Two details how pediatric oncology social work is a blend of different social work specialties and describes some of the tasks from these specialties found in pediatric oncology social work. The history of social work education in this field is described, as are gaps researchers have identified in preparing social workers in each of the aforementioned specialties. Competence theory and the stages of skill development are discussed and applied to the field of pediatric oncology social work. Chapter Three describes the Delphi Method, which formed the basis of this sequential, two-phase study. The study methodology is also described in detail. Chapter Four covers the results, which not only developed a list of competencies for pediatric oncology social work practice but also assessed how applicable tasks were to the role and how confident practitioners felt in performing each task. Practitioners with less than five years’ experience were found to feel much less confident than their peers with five years or more experience in performing critical tasks. Many of the items in which low confidence was expressed were also areas in which additional training was requested. Chapter Five discusses how these data can be used to better prepare social work students and new practitioners for the role. A pediatric oncology social work curriculum is proposed, along with additional ways students can be trained both in the classroom and in the field education setting.

Included in

Social Work Commons