Photo of Pamela Grassau

Pamela Grassau

Associate Professor / Graduate Program Supervisor

Degrees:MSW (Wilfrid Laurier), PhD (Toronto)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 6008


2016-present  Lecturer, Division of Palliative Care, Department of Medicine, University of Ottawa

2017-present  Affiliated Investigator, Bruyère Research Institute


Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University
School of Social Work, University of Windsor

Areas of Interest

  • Patient and family caregiver experiences of advanced illness, end of life and bereavement;
  • Health care providers and teams working in hospice, palliative care: exploring and understanding needs, experiences and supports in relation to self-compassion, grief/loss, and resilience;
  • Public health approaches to addressing chronic illness, advanced illness, end of life, and bereavement (Death Café’s, Dialogues with Death and Dying, Compassionate Communities etc.)
  • Social Work Research: Exploring theories, methods and methodologies which enhance individual and collective well-being, strengthen and sustain communities, promote social justice, and further support the breadth and depth of social work education and practice.
  • Arts and humanities-based practices, methods and research modalities and dissemination strategies
  • Interprofessional education and the application and integration of core interprofessional care competencies in health and social work sites and practices.

Selected Research Projects

Project Title: Healthy End of Life Project (HELP) Ottawa: Offering, Asking for and Accepting Help; Creating an End of Life Collaborative Community Culture
Project Lead: Dr. P. Grassau [Principal Investigator]
Timeline: 2019-2022
Funding Organization: Mach-Gaensslen Foundation of Canada – $641,534.00

Project Title: Knowing and Not-Knowing: Navigating Uncertainty in Social Work Practice.
Project Lead: Dr. S Todd [P. Grassau, Co-Investigator)
Timeline: 2020-2024
Funding Organization: SSHRC Insight Grant

Project Title: Community-based Creative Practices and Visual Research Methods: Developing new understandings of a good life for people experiencing impairment.
Project Lead: Dr. R. Thomas [P. Grassau, Co-Investigator]
Timeline: 2020 – 2022
Funding Organization: SSHRC Insight Grant

Project Title: Assessing the implementation and feasibility of the Stress Management and Resilience Training – Moral Resilience program (SMART-MR) with frontline clinical staff at The Ottawa Hospital: A non-randomized pilot study.
Project Lead: Dr. E. Spilg (Co-PI), Dr. Tim Ramsay (Co-PI). [P. Grassau, Co-Investigator]
Timeline: 2021-2022
Funding Organization: Department of Medicine Research Awards

Project Title: Families in the Palliative Care Unit: Mothers and Daughters: Relational Experience of Living and Dying
Project Lead: Dr. P. Grassau (Co-PI), Dr. T. Tucker (Co-PI)
Funding Organization: Bruyère Academic Medical Organization – Incentive Funding: $20,000.00

Centring on the relationship between mothers and daughters, this project focuses on understanding the needs, concerns and priorities of mothers (who are receiving end-of-life care) and their adult daughters.  Building on promising pilot data gathered by P. Grassau within her dissertation, a relational, life-review, legacy building approach with twenty mother-daughter dyads (N=40 participants) is being utilized within this study.  Following the interviews, mothers and daughters are given both a hard-copy transcript and audio-recorded CD of their interviews.  Follow-up bereavement interviews explore the experience of participating in the study and identify additional needs and concerns.

Project Title: A Humanities-Based Supportive Program for Staff on the Palliative Care Unit
Project Lead:
Dr. T. Tucker (P.I), Maryse Bouvette (Co-PI), Dr. P. Grassau (Co-Project Lead
Funding Organization: Bruyère Academic Medical Organization-Innovation Funding: $30,058.00

Although caring for the sick and dying can be enormously satisfying work, health care providers are faced with many competing demands.  Involving over 97 health care providers (physicians, nurses, allied health), staff, and volunteers, the research team developed, implemented, evaluated and formulated a humanities-based, compassion fatigue program which focused on building and strengthening compassion satisfaction for health care providers working in palliative care.  Following the completion of this work, the Champlain Hospice Palliative Care Program (CHPCP) and the Regional Bereavement Leadership Team have continued the development and integration of this work within and across hospice, palliative care sites across the Champlain LHIN.  Future work will explore and develop the resources, processes and mechanisms needed to sustain individual, team, institutional and regional communities of practice for longer-term wellness.

Project Title: The role of the arts and humanities in the education of health professionals: What is the impact?
Project Lead: Dr. P. Hall, L. Bloom
Funding Organization: Canadian Institutes of Health Research: $24,813.00

Bringing together researchers, clinicians, students and patient and family advocates to talk about the role of arts and humanities, this CIHR meeting grant offered an opportunity to dialogue across disciplines, professions and sites of practice around how to build strength, capacity, competency in health professional education.  One exciting opportunity which has grown from this meeting is the development of the Arts, Research, Creativity and Health (ARCH) team, a group of health professional faculty (University of Ottawa, Carleton University, Bruyère Research Institute), students, artists, and researchers who are passionate about interprofessional education and practice & arts and humanities-based theories, practices and research methodologies.  The first pilot program will be launched in the fall of 2018.  Stay tuned for future updates.

Selected Honours

2016     Best Poster Presentation, European Delirium Association Meeting, Vilamoura, Portugal
2015     Best Oral Presentation, AIME Annual Medical Education Day. University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON
2012     Michel Bilodeau Centre of Excellence Award, Bruyère Continuing Care, Ottawa, ON


Undergraduate Courses

SOWK 2500: Research Methods in Social Work
SOWK 3009: Sexualities, Politics and Practice

Graduate Courses

SOWK 5012: Social Work Research Foundations
SOWK 5013: Community Based Participatory Research
SOWK 6102: Ethical Foundations

Selected Publications

Wang, C., Grassau, P., Lawlor, P., Webber, C., Bush, S., Gagnon, B., Kabir, M., Spilg, E. (2020).
Burnout and Resilience among Canadian Palliative Care Physicians. BMC Palliative Care 19, 169.

Kabir, M., Rice, J., Bush, S., Lawlor, P., Webber, C., Grassau, P., Ghaedi, B., Dhuper, M., Hackbusch,
R. (2020). A mixed methods pilot study of “LIFEView’ audiovisual technology: Virtual travel to
support well-being and quality of life in palliative and end-of-life care patients. Palliative Medicine
34(7), 954-965.

Bush, S.H., Gratton, V., Kabir, M., Enright, P., Grassau, P., Rice, J., Hall, P. (2020). Building a Medical Undergraduate Palliative Care Curriculum: Lessons Learned. Journal of Palliative Care. Online First

Vincent, D., Rice, J., Chan, J., Grassau, P. (2019). Provision of comprehensive, culturally competent palliative care in the Qikiqtaaluk region of Nunavut. Canadian Family Physician 65(4), e163-e169.

Tucker, T., Bouvette, M., Daly, S., Grassau, P. (2017). Finding the Sweet Spot: Developing,
Implementing and Evaluating a Burn Out and Compassion Fatigue Intervention for Third Year
Medical Trainees. Evaluation and Program Planning. 65, 106-112.

Varpio, L., Grassau, P., Hall, P. (2017). Looking and listening for learning in arts- and humanities
Based creations. Medical Education 51(2), p 136-145.

Pereira J, Greene K, Sullivan L, Zinkie S, Rutkowski N, Lawlor P, Grassau P. (2018). A Technology-Enabled Solution to Manage Referrals to Hospice and Palliative Care Beds: The Ottawa SMART System as a Case Study. Healthcare Quarterly 20(4), 63-67.

Tucker, T., Bouvette, M., Daly, S., Grassau, P. (2017). Finding the Sweet Spot: Developing, Implementing and Evaluating a Burn Out and Compassion Fatigue Intervention for Third Year Medical Trainees. Evaluation and Program Planning. 65, 106-112.

Varpio, L., Grassau, P., Hall, P. (2017). Looking and listening for learning in arts- and humanities-based creations. Medical Education 51(2), 136-145.

Sinding C, Barnoff L, McGillicuddy P, Grassau P, Odette F. (2015). Aiming for Better than “Nobody Flinched”: Notes on Oppression in Cancer Care. In Brenda Cranney & Sheila Molloy (Eds). Canadian Woman Studies: An Introductory Reader. Third Edition: 429-436. Inanna Publications

Hall, P., Brajtman, S., Weaver, L., Grassau, P.A., Varpio, L. (2014). Learning collaborative teamwork: An argument for incorporating the humanities. Journal of Interprofessional Care 28 (6), p. 519-525.

Bush, S.H., Grassau, P.A., Yarmo, M.N., Zhang, T., Zinkie, S.J., Pereira, J.L. (2014). The Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale modified for palliative care inpatients (RASS-PAL): A pilot study exploring validity and feasibility in clinical practice. BMC Palliative Care 13(17), p 1-9.

Hall P, Weaver L, Grassau P.A. (2013). Theories, relationships and interprofessionalism: Learning to weave. Journal of Interprofessional Care 27(1), p. 73-80.

Grassau, P. (2010). Resilience and “Turning-it-Out” with the Arts: How the arts can help us engage with relational and structural aspects of oppression. Canadian Social Work Review, 26(2), p. 249-265.

Sinding, C., Barnoff, L., McGillicuddy, P., Grassau, P., Odette, F. (2010). Aiming for Better Than “Nobody Flinched”: Notes on Oppression in Cancer Care. Canadian Woman Studies 28 (2-3), p. 89-93.

Hudak, P.L., Grassau, P., Glazier, R. H., Hawker, G., Kreder, H., Coyte, P., Mahomed, N., Wright, J. G. (2008). “Not Everyone Who Needs One Is Going to Get One”: The Influence of Medical Brokering on Patient Candidacy for Total Joint Arthroplasty. Medical Decision-Making, 28(5), p. 773-780