An exploration of Social Work best practice in the emergency department of a leading trauma hospitals

Sharon Wells1, Joanne Maret1

1Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, 2Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia

Best practice Social Work includes timely, client-centred and strength-based interventions and processes. With little published research on Social Work services in response to major traumas in ED settings, this study explored current Social Work practice in this context.

Aim: Best practice Social Work includes timely, client-centred and strength-based interventions and processes. With little published research on Social Work services in response to major traumas in ED settings, this study aims to explore current Social Work practice in this context. This research considered Social Work best practice through an examination of the role, hours of service, interventions, and processes in Emergency Department Trauma Team Activations (TTA).

 

Method: A literature review informed the research, with benchmarking  including a mixed-method, cross-sectional survey and interviews of senior Social Workers from nine major trauma hospitals in Australia.

Results

  • Social Work service standards were associated with: 24-hour Social Work service provision; mean EFT of 4; formalised referral and assessment processes; continuity of care.
  • The hours of Social Work service, and number of rostered professionals however, did not always correspond to peak times, or the numbers of ED presentations.
  • Data analysis highlighted the high rates of major trauma and bereavement in ED, and specialist Social Work involvement in crisis-intervention, psychological first aid and bereavement support.

Significance: Published studies indicate the significant immediate and long-term psychosocial impacts of major trauma on the lives of patients and families. Social Workers are equipped with a specialised skill set to mitigate these effects.

This study found a mismatch between the peak times of major traumas, and Social Work service provision, suggesting a risk for patient and family outcomes, as well as placing an additional burden on medical teams.

The research highlights the need for a dedicated and specialist Social Work service in ED to respond to traumas and bereavements, that reflects critical times of traumas, and ensures the competing critical duty of care needs in ED (child protection and family violence) are not compromised.


Biography:

Sharon Wells is a graduate of Master of Social Work (RMIT). With a background in Strategic Management and Communications, Sharon has initiated social and cultural change projects including the protection and enhancement of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. Joanne Maret has recently completed a Bachelor of Social Work (Honours) and Psychology. With previous experience in the homelessness sector, Joanne has worked on relevant projects including Rooming House Closure Projects and her Honours research.  Sharon and Joanne jointly undertook a research placement at the Royal Melbourne Hospital examining the role of Social Work in response to major traumas in Emergency Departments.

NAHC Conferences

2007, Hobart (7th NAHC)

2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

2012, Canberra (9th NAHC)

2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

2015, Melbourne (11th NAHC)

2017, Sydney (12th NAHC)

2019, Brisbane (13th NAHC)

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