298Final - Perceptions of the Role of Social Workers in an...

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Perceptions of the Role of Social Workers in an Acute Care Setting by Heather Boddie-Russo A Social Work 298 Special Project Presented to the Faculty of the School of Social Work San Jose State University In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Social Work Dr. Amy D’Andrade May 2009
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Abstract The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of the role of social workers in an acute care setting. Utilizing quantitative cross-sectional survey design, professional hospital staff, including doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and physical therapists, at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, CA were asked to complete a self-administered, anonymous survey that explored individual perceptions of the role social workers play in an acute care setting. It was hypothesized that perceptions of the role of social workers in an acute care setting would vary by profession; specifically that doctors have a greater misconception about the role of social workers in an acute care setting than other professions. Perceptions of the social worker role was determined by the score each participant received for his/her responses to twenty four statements on the survey that related to the roles, responsibilities and credentials of social workers in an acute care setting. Survey scores were analyzed using a Pearson Chi-Square statistical test that compared participants survey scores by profession. The results of this study conclude that in this particular sample, physicians did not have a greater misconception about the role of social workers in an acute care setting than other professions. This study provided a glimpse into how social workers are perceived in a single acute care setting, and although the results do not correspond with prevailing literature on the subject, any study conducted raises the profile of the profession by demonstrating its commitment to evidence based practice. 2
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Introduction Since 1905, professional social workers have been vital members of multidisciplinary patient care teams in American hospitals (Clark, 2005). While the role of the hospital social worker has changed dramatically since then, social workers continue to provide invaluable services to patients and their families during times of crisis. In acute care settings, doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other hospital staff care for the physical needs of patients while social workers attend to patient’s psychosocial issues. Through resource referral, counseling, crisis intervention, and advocacy, social workers ensure that patients are cared for holistically during their stay in an acute care setting. Cutbacks in healthcare have been rampant the past two decades, and the lack of published data documenting the benefit of social work services in acute settings has made the profession particularly vulnerable to cost cutting measures (Kossman, Lamb, O’Brien, Predmore, & Prescher, 2005). Misconceptions about the role of hospital social workers as
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298Final - Perceptions of the Role of Social Workers in an...

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