The Emerging Role of Social Work in Primary Health Care: Study

March 20, 2018

The Emerging Role of Social Work in Primary Health Care: A Survey of Social Workers in Ontario Family Health Teams

Article published in Health & Social Work (February 2018)


Primary health care systems are increasingly integrating interprofessional team-based approaches to care delivery. As members of these interprofessional primary health care teams, it is important for social workers to explore our experiences of integration into these newly emerging teams to help strengthen patient care. Despite the expansion of social work within primary health care settings, few studies have examined the integration of social work’s role into this expanding area of the health care system. A survey was conducted with Canadian social work practitioners who were employed within Family Health Teams (FHTs), an interprofessional model of primary health care in Ontario emerging from a period of health care reform. One hundred and twenty-eight (N = 128) respondents completed the online survey. Key barriers to social work integration in FHTs included difficulties associated with a medical model environment, confusion about social work role, and organizational barriers. Facilitators for integration of social work in FHTs included adequate education and competencies, collaborative engagement, and organizational structures. Note: An invitation to participate was sent to the Mental Health and Social Worker CoP mailing list. Authors:
  • Rachelle Ashcroft, PhD, University of Toronto
  • Colleen McMillan, PhD, University of Waterloo
  • Wayne Ambrose-Miller, PhD, University of Windsor
  • Ryan McKee, MD, The Centre for Family Medicine FHT, McMaster University
  • Judith Belle Brown, PhD, King's University College, Western University
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