MSW Student Seeks to Support Hospice Patients Nearing the End of Life

A former teacher returns to school at the KU Edwards Campus in pursuit of a master’s in social work. Meet Laine Dilla.

A photo of Laine Dilla with children with the text Laine Dilla, Master of Social Work student

For Laine Dilla, a KU Edwards Campus Master of Social Work (MSW) student, the choice to shift from teaching to social work felt natural. Growing up with a mother who was a social worker, Dilla was often surrounded by adults in the field. Dilla taught eighth-grade language arts for most of her career, but after taking some time off to raise her children, she decided to transition from one helping profession to another.

When choosing where to pursue her master’s in social work, Dilla felt the MSW program’s structure, reputation, and location at the Edwards Campus all aligned with what she was looking for. U.S. News & World Report has consistently ranked KU’s MSW program in the top 12% of public institution social work programs. A program with in-person classes was also important to Dilla, and the proximity of the campus made it easy to commute for classes.

“During the pandemic, I worked from home and had very little interaction with people,” Dilla explains. “Social work is such an in-person field, so it didn’t make sense to do a fully online program.”

The instructors in KUEC’s MSW program are all social workers who not only teach social work theory, but also employ the theories in their pedagogy. The Human Rights and Social Justice class was particularly eye-opening for Dilla. 

“The course provides a framework for looking at current events,” Dilla says. “It’s been powerful to read the news with this kind of theory in mind.”

The first year of the part-time MSW program is classwork only, but next year, Dilla will begin applying for her practicum. The two-day-per-week practicum allows MSW students to gain real-world skills and work experience in environments such as hospitals, schools, prisons, and domestic violence shelters while earning credit hours toward their degree. Dilla hopes to complete her practicum in a hospice house to help lessen the fear around death. 

“I’m interested in helping people in hospice and palliative care have a good death,” Dilla says. “I want to use my degree to influence the culture around death and how we talk about it.”

As a mom of a 9-year-old and 11-year-old, Dilla knows the importance of good time management in balancing motherhood and schoolwork. Fortunately, since many of her KUEC classmates are in the same phase of life, Dilla is in good company. She’s found that because everyone in her classes truly wants to be there, it’s made for a richer learning environment made up of students who are committed to doing the work. 

“The instructors are very understanding and want you to be successful,” Dilla says. “They put a lot of emphasis on taking care of yourself.”

Read more about KUEC’s Master of Social Work

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