Perceptions of the Role of Social Workers in an Emergency Setting: An Ethnographic Study



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Social Workers play a critical role in emergency medical settings and their presence has been associated with a decrease in inappropriate emergency room use, and with a reduction in initial and repeated emergency room visits related to psychosocial stressors. However, the discussion continues—especially among emergency room professionals from other disciplines—as to whether social workers truly belong in the emergency setting. In the wake of these debates, many hospital social work departments around the country have been closed. This study qualitatively examined the perceptions of the role of the social worker in a Level 1 Trauma center setting from a multidisciplinary perspective with the use of ethnographic research methods. Three main constructs were explored: Role of the Social Worker, Function of the Social Worker and Value of the Social Worker within the ER Culture. To date, previous studies on role perception in this arena have been done quantitatively.



Social work, Qualitative, Emergency settings, Value