Purpose: After-hours social work (SW) services seem to be provided in many major healthcare centres but there appear to be no data describing these services, in terms of the number of patients seen, their characteristics, types of problems, SW interventions provided, their effectiveness or the impact of providing after-hours services on the provider. The aim of this study was to investigate the patient characteristics and types of interventions provided to patients who received an after-hours SW service and the effect of providing these services on the service-provider. Method: A retrospective review of data collected on patients who had received after-hours SW service for urgent/crisis scenarios over a three-year period in a tertiary-care public hospital in Australia was undertaken, with two illustrative case scenarios. Results: A total of 172 occasions of service were delivered, with most services provided to patients/families in the Emergency Department (ED) or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) following trauma or with a medical condition. Counselling for trauma, grief or loss were the types of interventions most often provided. Interventions were most frequently rated by the SW-provider as highly complex and imperative. At times, providing the after-hours service negatively impacted on the service-provider the following day, with tiredness and hypervigilance most frequently reported. Conclusion: An after-hours SW service within a tertiary-care hospital was provided approximately five times/month, predominantly involving counselling to patients/families in the ED or ICU, and rated as highly complex and imperative. These results provide evidence, albeit anecdotal, that an after-hours SW service is of value in this setting.

Author Bio(s)

Manoj Pereira, BA, BSW, is a social worker at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia.

Georgina Wire, BSW, is a social worker and the Team Leader for Critical Care and Renal at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia.

Kathy Stiller, BAppSc (Physio), PhD, is the allied health research coordinator, Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, South Australia.


We would like to thank Penny Munro (Discipline Director, SW, Central Adelaide Local Health Network) and Margie Keukenmeester (Director, SW, Royal Adelaide Hospital) for their support of this project.





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