Paula McFadden
  • Northlands Road, Magee Campus

    BT48 7JL Londonderry

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile


Dr Paula McFadden is a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Ulster University since September 2017 and a previous graduate from Ulster in 1993, with a BSc Hons Degree in Social Work, and in 2013, with a Doctor of Philosophy in Resilience and Burnout in Child Protection Social Work. Paula’s career is an extensive blend of practice and teaching, with more than 10 years’ experience in Older People’s services, as a social worker, manager and Adult Safeguarding Designated Officer.  Paula’s early practice experience also includes Learning Disability and Child Protection social work. Paula was a Lecturer in Health and Social Care, in the North West Regional College for over 10 years prior to completion of her PhD at Ulster, and then worked at Queens University Belfast for three years as a Lecturer in Social Work (2014-2017). 

Research Interests

Dr McFadden’s main research interests are centred on workforce wellbeing, resilience and burnout.  Following completion of the PhD on Resilience and Burnout in Child Protection Social Work, Paula continued to study this area by expanding to firstly include all areas of social work practice.  In 2014 Paula was commissioned by Community Care © to conduct a UK wide study of burnout across social work professions, the first study of this kind of a national scale in the UK. In 2018 Paula conducted another UK wide study, on social workers attitudes to ageing, intention to leave and wellbeing and work-related quality of life.  More recently, Paula has further expanded her research reach, to include other disciplines.  In June 2020, she was awarded funding by the Public Health Authority to study ‘COVID-19: UK Health and Social Care Workforce Wellbeing and Coping Study’.  A weblink to the website for the study with full reports can be found here 

Dr McFadden has presented research papers at international conferences including South Africa, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Portugal, Ljubljana and other regional and national conferences in the UK and Ireland. She is a reviewer for esteemed Journals including the British Journal of Social Work, the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, Health and Social Care in the Community and Social Services Review. Dr McFadden is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma.

In March 2020, Dr McFadden led a group from seven international universities (Australia, England, Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden) on an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on admissions to social work for applicants to the profession and changes in delivery of teaching and learning.  Dr McFadden is interested in exploring international differences and similarities in social work curriculum and pedagogy and is working with international colleagues on improvements on ways to prepare students for the challenges of a social work career.  

Dr McFadden is the co-founder of the European Social Work Research Association, Special Interest Group, for workforce research. This international group enables an international group of academics and PhD students to network, share research findings and collaborate on workforce research. She is also a member of the World University Network, Resilience in Professionals network

Dr McFadden is working with the International Federation of Social Workers, and partners in Bath Spa University, on Global Working Conditions research for social workers. This study began in 2019, with a survey spanning multiple countries.  This research is the first Global study on this scale, and work is planned to continue with repeat surveys over time.

Dr McFadden is the co-founder of the Social Work Research Cluser and Research Lead for Social Work at Ulster University.

Teaching Interests

Dr McFadden teaches at Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels at Ulster University. She is also part of a regional partnership between Ulster University and Queens University Belfast, Praxis Care © and the Health and Social Care Board, Regional Social Work and Social Care Research Strategy, to develop an Open Access course for service user’s and carer’s involvement in research activities.

Dr McFadden is the program lead for the MSc in Research Methods for Social Work and Service Users at Ulster University. She also teaches on the Adult Safeguarding program, which is a regional course delivered in partnership with employers.

Dr McFadden is course convenor for a final year module on the BSc Hons Degree in Social Work, on Interventions in Multidisciplinary Contexts. Her specialist areas of teaching are on Older People and Disability social work practice. She also leads on teaching on ‘Resilience in Social Work Practice’ during first year and final year modules. 

PhD Researcher Profile


Dr McFadden is supervising PhD students whose interests are related to social work workforce and practice issues. Childhood resilience and wellbeing, and older people wellbeing and resilience are additional areas of research interest for Dr McFadden, and she is currently supervisiing an interdisciplinary PhD student focusing on school based trauma informed interventons.  Dr McFadden welcomes applications from potential PhD candidates who are interested in pursing research in the realms of social work workforce wellbeing and the practice areas outlined.

Current and Recent Grants


  1. Health & Social Care workers' quality of working life and coping while working during Covid-19 Pandemic

    Mallett, J.Gillen, P. & Mc Fadden, P.

    HSC NI R&D Office Covid 19: £70,000.00

    24/08/20 → 23/08/21

    Award date: 31/07/20



    Hopeful Minds in Malaysia: A School Based Mental health promotion programme designed for Children or Young Adolescents

    Hutchinson, K.Armour, C.Mc Fadden, P. & Kirby, K.

    Department for the Economy: £37,785.00

    1/04/17 → 31/07/19

    Award date: 9/10/17



    Nurses and Midwives Self-Report on Health and Wellbeing Concerns relating to the Desire to Stay or Leave Work at Varying Stages of their Career

    Gillen, P. & Mc Fadden, P.

    South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust: £7,064.00

    19/03/19 → 31/12/20

    Award date: 26/03/19


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals


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