Date of Award

Summer 8-4-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)

First Advisor

Dr. Carolyn Walter

Second Advisor

Dr. Aileen McCabe-Maucher


The following is a two-paper dissertation exploring the role of social workers in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The classical and contemporary perspectives of grief theory provide the framework for understanding emotional responses of bereaved parents to the death of a child. The academic social work, medical, and nursing literature reviewed support the hypothesis that social workers are an insufficiently tapped resource in working with bereaved parents who have experienced perinatal loss in the NICU and revealed contributing factors for current medical social work practices. The accompanying article discusses the role of social workers and the areas that demonstrate their expertise. The article also conceptualizes the design of a bereavement program for perinatal loss using the established adult and pediatric hospice and palliative care models. This dissertation contributes to social work practice in the NICU and grief literature knowledge base by acknowledging the disenfranchisement of bereaved parents who have experienced perinatal loss in the NICU, supporting collaborations with other professionals on the NICU interdisciplinary team, and proposing a prospectus program design.