Mentoring the Next Generation of Social Workers in Palliative and End-of-Life Care: The Zelda Foster Studies Program

Daniel S. Gardner, Susan Gerbino, Jocelyn Warner Walls, Esther Chachkes, Meredith J. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As Americans live longer with chronic illnesses, there is a growing need for social workers with the knowledge and skills to deliver quality palliative care to older adults and their families. Nevertheless, there remains a critical shortage of social workers prepared to provide quality palliative and end-of-life care (PELC) and to maintain the field into the next generation. Formal mentorship programs represent an innovative approach to enhancing practice, providing support and guidance, and promoting social work leadership in the field. This article reviews the literature on mentorship as an approach to professional and leadership development for emerging social workers in PELC. The Zelda Foster Studies Program in Palliative and End-of-Life Care bolsters competencies and mentors social workers in PELC over the trajectory of their careers, and enhances the capacity in the field. Findings from the first six years of two components of the ZF Program are examined to illustrate the feasibility, benefits, and challenges of formal mentorship programs. The authors describe the background, structure, and evaluation of the initiative's mentorship programs, and discuss the implications of mentorship in PELC for social work education, practice, and research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-131
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 3 2015


  • mentoring
  • mentorship
  • palliative care
  • professional development
  • program evaluation
  • social work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Mentoring the Next Generation of Social Workers in Palliative and End-of-Life Care: The Zelda Foster Studies Program'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this