Social Work



Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

Type of Paper/Work

Banded Dissertation


Kingsley Chigbu


This banded dissertation explores building a culture of compassion within social work agencies and the academy. Compassionate care of the self and others is a basic element that is required for employee success within social service agencies and the academy. This success has a lot to do with fostering self-care practices among the employees. For too long social workers have experienced burnout and many hardships that come from secondary trauma. Such traumas have much to do with the nature of work or services they provide. Self-care and care of others (compassion) are primary means by which social workers alleviate possible/imminent burnout. In this banded dissertation, compassion in general and building a culture of compassion within employment settings is considered through the lens of Viktor Frankl’s view of suffering and the “will to meaning”, Catholic Social Teaching, the NASW Code of Ethics, and the Christian scriptures. Further, the human person is viewed as personal, social, independent, and interdependent. Due to this integrated paradox, it is essential that self-care and care for others be explored as indispensable needs within the workplace, hence this banded dissertation. This banded dissertation consists of three products. The first product is a Scholarly Personal Narrative in which the author explored his experience of compassion in social service agencies and the academy. Therefore, the paper is informed by this author’s experience of “agency culture”, the culture of the academy and the promotion of self-care and productivity. Findings from the explorative inquiry exposes self-care as an individualistic approach which by itself is not sufficient to solve systemic/cultural problems in an agency and/or the academy, while productivity is a utilitarian approach applied to human issues that dehumanizes the interaction between social workers and their colleagues and clients. The author thus contends that creating a culture of compassion is an essential element that agencies and the academy need to include if they wish to decrease social worker burnout and the negative impact of vicarious trauma and increase longevity. The second product used a qualitative study in which the author explored the following question: to what extent does a culture of compassion exist in professional social work settings from the perspective of a sample of social workers working primarily in agency and academic settings? The study was based on an open-ended survey of a small sample of social workers in the United States. A total of 20individuals completed the survey. The survey results were initially analyzed using open codingand then axial coding, whichhelped to form and categorize the major themes (Engel & Schutt, 2017; Padgett, 2017). Data were analyzed using a thematic analysis method in which this author readallthe responses to the survey and recorded similar themes (Engel & Schutt, 2017; Padgett, 2017). From this analysis, 12themes emerged with four overarching themes identified and recorded. One of the majorthemes regarding compassion from the respondents was that compassion is viewed as thinking, feeling, and acting with and on behalf of the other person. Another two-part theme resulting from the survey was that self-care is individualistic and a compassionate workplace culture is collective in nature while respecting the individual.Additionally, the participants indicated that there are internal and external factors that lead to burnout. Overall, findings from the study showed that creating a culture of compassion is an essential elementthat agencies need to include if they wish to decrease social worker burnout and the negative impact of vicarious trauma and increase longevity. The third product is a conference workshop that the author presented at theNorth American Association of Christians in Social Work(NACSW) Conference in Novemberof 2020. The focus of the presentation was on the second product of this Banded Dissertation.Keywords: culture of compassion, self-care, productivity, agency culture, burnout

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.

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