How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect palliative care social work services? A scoping review

Audrey Roulston*, Sheri Mila Gerson, Ellen Csikai, Patricia Dobrikova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
51 Downloads (Pure)


The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) generated life-defining challenges on a global level, affecting healthcare professionals, who faced the same imminent public health threat as patients and families. Reduced face-to-face contact, wearing personal protective equipment and enforcing visitor restrictions generated moral distress in healthcare professionals, unable to provide holistic care. This scoping review explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on palliative care social workers (PCSWs). PubMED, CINAHL and PsycINFO were systematically searched. Empirical studies and reflective articles about palliative care social work during the pandemic were screened. Data extraction used Arksey and O’Malley’s framework. Thematic analysis was underpinned by Braun and Clarke for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns. From 706 citations retrieved, 125 were selected for full-text review and 32 were included in the scoping review. Thematic analysis revealed three themes: (i) moral distress, (ii) transitioning and (iii) inequality. Implementing visitor restrictions caused moral distress and raised questions about their justification. Not being present at the time of death generated feelings of anger among bereaved family members. Virtual communication replaced face-to-face contact, yet improved access to Telehealth. Inequalities were illuminated and PCSWs advocated for disadvantaged populations, worked creatively to minimise suffering or stigma and supported peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2878–2901
Number of pages24
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date11 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


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