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CAPACITY study 5

The development and evaluation of an intervention program to increase social workers’ palliative care capacity in Flanders



Brent Taels
Junior Researcher KULeuven

Project group

Researcher: Brent Taels (KULeuven)
Supervisor: prof. dr. Anja Declercq (KULeuven)
Co-supervisor: dr. Kirsten Hermans (KULeuven)
Co-supervisor: prof. dr. Chantal Van Audenhove (KULeuven)
Project group member: prof.dr. Joachim Cohen (VUB)



KULeuven Lucas


01-2019 to 03-2023

Abstract project

The past few decades, the delivery and quality of palliative care have significantly improved. However, several challenges remain such as the rising number of people with palliative care needs and the limited professional workforce to meet these needs. Nevertheless, it will not suffice to tackle these challenges solely by rising the number of professionals in palliative care. Instead, it may be more efficient to carefully scrutinize existing, but underused professional potential to maximize professional palliative care delivery. Currently, in Flanders (Belgium), as well as in other countries, there is a particular lack of and a non-integrated involvement of social workers in palliative care. This underutilization of social workers is due to a limited palliative care capacity following i.a. an unclear definition of their potential role, inadequate education on the subject and competition between social workers and other healthcare professionals. Nevertheless, research has verified that the involvement of social workers in palliative care has a positive impact on the functioning, quality of life and wellbeing of patients and their families.

The overall objective of this study is to identify the current gaps in palliative care capacity of Flemish social workers and to develop an intervention program to increase their palliative care capacity.

The intervention will be conducted by following a realist interpretation of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Framework for the development and evaluation of complex interventions. Phase I will follow the steps of the ‘enriched’ development phase as designed by Bleijenberg and colleagues (2018). Their comprehensive approach to the original framework includes more attention for context and theories that underpin interventions, while also emphasizing the need to include stakeholder perspectives in academic findings. Phase II will consist of a piloting study examining the preliminary effect of the intervention on Flemish social workers’ palliative care capacity followed by a study that assesses the feasibility, acceptability and validity of the proposed intervention.



Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)