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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Professional contacts between doctors and social workers : a comparative survey of awareness and utilization of services, Vancouver, B.C., 1963. Moscovich, Shirley Saundra


In most modern communities, a large array of health services and welfare services are at least potentially available to all. Whether any individual or family receives a co-ordinated balanced welfare service, however, depends on many factors, including the extent to which two "helping professions", social work (as represented by social workers employed in various agencies) and medicine (as represented by general practitioners) know of each other's services and actually work together. The present study is a preliminary survey of the situation. As background, the impact of industrialization and urbanization on the development and contemporary roles of medicine and social work is reviewed. Information for this qualitative study was obtained through questionnaires submitted to sample groups of doctors and social workers. The purpose of the questionnaires was to gain some definition of the concept of "reciprocal awareness and utilization". In each case, the attempt was made to evaluate the knowledge one profession had of the other's role and function, and the extent to which this knowledge was used for the benefit of the population they served. In addition, directors of three key agencies were interviewed to determine their views on the role of the agency in furthering reciprocal awareness and utilization. The findings of the study indicate that a fairly typical situation is that the doctor's awareness of the social worker's role and function is limited and outdated. Social workers, in general, are more aware of the doctor's role and function, but on the other hand, their expectations are somewhat high and perhaps unrealistic. As indicated by the test of referral patterns, the utilization of each other's resources is minimal. The doctor's utilization of social work skills and resources is hampered by two facts: (a) patients have mixed feelings about being referred, and (b) doctors believe that agency policy and procedure is ineffective and frustrating. There is evidence that besides not recognizing a modern social worker's role and function, general practitioners appear to underestimate social and emotional factors in illness. Reciprocity, the main concept evaluated in this study, is minimal. Both doctors and social workers recognized that there are gains to be realized from more co-operation and some methods are recommended; but the low degree of reciprocal awareness and utilization existing between doctors and social workers must be tackled by recognizing that rather than lack of communication, faulty and hostile communication is the issue. This does not necessarily apply to medicine and social work in institutional settings and this difference demands further exploration.

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