The role of the social worker in long-term care in Ontario: An exploratory qualitative study examining perspectives of social workers about their roles.

Candace J. Hind, University of Windsor


The role of the social worker in long-term care (LTC) in Ontario is a vital component of holistic, person-centred, multidisciplinary care. However, the social work role in LTC is not well understood and social workers can be under-utilized in their roles due to this ambiguity. This study used ecological theory and constructivist grounded theory methodology to illuminate the theoretical properties of the role of social work, to examine its distinct lens on the multidisciplinary team in LTC, and to assist in developing social work scope and practice descriptions. Twelve registered social workers working in LTC in Ontario participated in intensive semi-structured interviews about their roles. The findings from this study illustrate the role of the social worker in LTC as fast paced and filled with many responsibilities and obligations that make “every day different”. Five themes were identified 1. Building Trust and Relationship, 2. Meeting Needs in the LTC Environment, 3. Working in Collaboration, 4. Life Cycle of the Social Work Role in LTC, 5. Influencing the Culture of LTC. Implications of the research are discussed for social work practice, policy, research, and education and include the recommendation that a social worker be mandated in every LTC home in the province. This would ensure that biopsychosocial care needs are addressed, communication facilitated with social workers as conduits and hubs for knowledge transfer, and the opportunity for social workers to contribute to transformational change from task and efficiency-oriented to value-based and relational models of care.