School of Social and Political Science

New self-care curriculum will enhance wellbeing and learning for social work students



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Lecturers at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science are co-creating a self-care curriculum for social work education, to help combat stress and burnout.

The two-year project will be carried out by Autumn Roesch-Marsh, Pearse McCusker, Mary Mitchell and Sarah Rose, all current teaching staff in the Social Work department. It is funded internally by the University, as part of the Principal’s Teaching Award Scheme.

The idea arose from a recognition of the high levels of stress and burnout among social work students and practitioners, highlighting the importance of self-care. Despite recognition of the demands of the profession, self-care has not been incorporated systematically into social work curriculums across higher education.

During the academic year 2021-2022, the team will pilot and evaluate the self-care programme to determine its benefits for students and practitioners. They aim to implement it into the curriculum in full the following year.

The team will work closely with students, practitioners, academics and external partners, using a participatory action research design. It is aiming to increase understanding of theory and approaches to self-care in order to develop and integrate a curriculum of self-care across existing social work programmes at the University of Edinburgh.

A diverse and inclusive curriculum

The content of the curriculum will be determined during the project, but it is likely to involve a series of learning experiences. It will build on work to date to develop skills and understanding for greater self-care and explore how it may enhance learning.

Importantly, as self-care requires safe spaces to explore concepts of self, the team will apply an intersectional lens, recognising that students come from diverse backgrounds and identify in different ways. In doing so, it aims to develop a curriculum that is broad, inclusive and reflects social work’s core values regarding equality and social justice.

Benefits beyond social work

The project will benefit from collaboration with other University initiatives aimed at improving student wellbeing.

It is anticipated that the project’s findings will have application in other subjects, particularly those with practice elements such as teaching, nursing, medicine and counselling, where students are potentially exposed to vicarious trauma and may benefit from developing their skills and understanding of self-care.

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