Tiffany Washington, Terri D. Lewinson

Healthcare Social Workers’ Scope of Practice during COVID-19

  • Health Information Management
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Policy
  • Leadership and Management

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the U.S. healthcare system to its limits, resulting in the need for flexibility in care delivery. This study aimed to describe healthcare social workers’ scope of practice since the start of the pandemic. Semi-structured interviews for this qualitative study were conducted using the Zoom platform between July and August 2020. This study used a basic qualitative content analysis with integrated deductive and inductive coding to explore participant perspectives. Their scope was assessed based on healthcare social work practice standards. Four practice standards and eight themes that emerged from the data were knowledge and skills (care planning and intervention and social worker–patient relationship), workload sustainability (workload expansion and workload facilitators), interdisciplinary collaboration (collaborating beyond the scope of responsibilities and collaboration challenges), and cultural competency (institutional and societal). The findings add a deeper understanding of the roles social workers perform, how they think about these roles, how they want to be understood, and how they are best utilized in ways consistent with their training and expertise. Moving forward, healthcare systems may consider well-delineated roles and responsibilities for everyday practice and during pandemics.

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