Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Laurel N. Bidwell, Ph.D., LICSW


Social Work


A vast majority of the existing research explores the negative impacts that the profession of social work has on its practitioners. Much attention has been given to topics like secondary or vicarious trauma, burnout, and compassion fatigue. There are far fewer studies that explore the positive aspects of social work practice. The concept of joy is often missing from the literature about social work. The purpose of this study was to explore the narratives of joy of social workers practicing in hospice and palliative care. Using an exploratory qualitative design, eight graduate level social workers were interviewed about their experiences of joy in their hospice or palliative care practice. Data were analyzed according to guidelines of hermeneutic phenomenology. This study looked for the essential truths of the social workers’ lived experiences of joy in their work. The findings indicated that for social workers, joy is cultivated in relationships. Participants in this study also noted that joy is a result of experiencing fulfillment and bearing witness to client fulfillment. Joy is described as energizing and motivating, and for the social workers in this study, joy provided a necessary balance in emotionally heavy work. These findings highlight the importance of congruence of self and work in social work practice. Experiencing joy in social work practice may enable social workers to better comply with and reinforce the values and principles set forth by their professional mandate.

Included in

Social Work Commons