A retrospective review of the after-hours social work service in a tertiary-care public hospital in Australia

Mr Manoj Pereira1, Ms Georgina Wire1, Dr Kathy Stiller1

Central Adelaide Local Health Network, Adelaide, Australia


Aim: After-hours social work (SW) services appear to be provided in many major healthcare centres but there is no research describing or evaluating these services, in terms of the number of patients seen, their characteristics, types of problems and SW interventions provided. 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 summary 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 was undertaken.

Results: A total of 172 occasions of service were provided, with most services provided to patients/families in the ED or ICU following trauma or with a medical condition. Counselling for trauma, grief or loss were the 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 reported.

Significance of the findings to allied health: 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.