Developing a National Health Social Work Competency Framework
Health Social Workers engage with people, including the healthy and chronically ill, across the ages and stages of life from conception to death. They encounter diverse client-related issues in their day-to-day practice. The Health Social Worker’s role includes assisting clients and their families/whānau to be self-sufficient and cope with the personal, family and/or social effects of life changes due to ill health and disability. Social Work Associations and regulatory bodies from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have developed practice standards and competency frameworks within which common themes can be identified. Competencies within social work can be described as multidimensional dynamic concepts that require social workers to have the appropriate knowledge, attitudes and observable technical skills to perform their role effectively and efficiently; that is, social workers need to have the ability to carry out the professional tasks and responsibilities that define social work scopes of practice. Thus, competencies are determined by the quality of service, training, education and practice assessment. The overall aim of this study was to explore whether a single national competency framework could be developed that would be relevant across, and applicable to, all domains of Health Social Work practice throughout New Zealand. It was thought that such a framework would assist Health Social Workers to demonstrate their competency and accountability. In doing so, it would enable Health Social Workers to clearly articulate and demonstrate the ‘how and why’ of their practice. The study also considered whether demographic characteristics could influence the perception of Health Social Work practice and what social workers themselves might consider relevant elements in a national framework. A mixed method approach utilising both qualitative and quantitative research methods was used in the study. A questionnaire containing 18 competency statements comprised of 107 elements was designed and sent through the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) to all social workers who were current financial members and who stated they were employed in the health sector. Open comment sections in the questionnaire allowed participants to express their subjective views about each competency standard. The quantitative data collected was entered into SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, version 16) for statistical analysis. Thematic coding was used to analyse the qualitative (subjective) responses. The results showed that on average the participants had 10.3 years of Health Social Worker experience. Just over half were employed in the Mental Health sector. The majority held a qualification that would be recognised by the New Zealand Social Work Registration Board. The results also showed that while there were significant differences between groups of social workers with different demographic characteristics in 39 of the 107 elements, differences were still within the “agreed” and “strongly agreed” points on the Likert scale. A major and important finding of this study is that the all participants agreed with the competency statements. This indicates that a single national Health Social Work Competency Framework may be developed and applied to all domains of Health Social Work practice.
Advisor: Briggs, Lynne
Degree Name: Master of Social Welfare
Degree Discipline: Socialogy, Gender and Social Work
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Social Work; Competency; Health Social Work; Social Work Definition
Research Type: Thesis