Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor



Social Work


Research suggests the defined role of emergency room social worker is unclear among other professionals working in the emergency room (Cowles & Lefcowitz, 1992). Changes to the healthcare system including a decrease in resources, combined roles of emergency department personnel, and delivery of mental health treatment in emergency rooms has necessitated further investigation of the role of emergency room social worker.

Using a qualitative design, seven participants from two Midwestern hospitals were surveyed in regards to how they defined their role as a social worker, barriers to their role, and demographic information was collected including licensure and years worked as an emergency room social worker.

Findings of this study suggest the emergency room social worker is a valuable member of the interdisciplinary team in the emergency room, fulfilling multiple roles for the well being of patients. Study results indicated emergency room social workers may be underutilized as educators of mental health topics both within the hospital and in the community setting. Additionally, the role of emergency room social worker as a cultural broker may also be underutilized within the emergency room setting. This study also indicated significant barriers to the role of emergency room social worker, including lack of community resources.

These findings demonstrate the need for future research in various areas relating to the emergency room social worker such as researching the emergency room social worker as an educator and as a cultural liaison.

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Social Work Commons