Abstract: Answering the Call: Creating the Next Generation of Social Work Leaders on Interprofessional Healthcare Teams (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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568P Answering the Call: Creating the Next Generation of Social Work Leaders on Interprofessional Healthcare Teams

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jennifer Currin-McCulloch, PhD, Assistant Professor, Colorado State University
Barbara Jones, PhD, Associate Dean for Health Affairs, University Distinguished Teaching Professor, Associate Director of Social Sciences and Community Based Research, LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes and Professor of Oncology, Population Health, and Psychiatry, University of Texas at Austin, Austin
Liana Petruzzi, MSW, Doctoral student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Shivani Kaushik, MSSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Colorado State University
Farya Phillips, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin

Within the past 25 years, social work educators and researchers have elevated the practice skills and social justice values of social workers within interprofessional health pedagogy. Most evaluative studies of interprofessional education (IPE) including social work students focus on short-term, or project based interprofessional training. Scarce research explores social work students’ longitudinal professional identity development and their embodiment of interprofessional leadership roles in promoting health equity.

This study explored the acquisition of interprofessional competence, identity and leadership development among three cohorts of BSW and MSW students who participated in a fully-integrated longitudinal interprofessional health collaborative practice course.


This study utilized a mixed method design to assess three cohorts of BSW and MSSW students (N=113) who participated alongside PharmD, medicine, and nursing students in the Transformative Teams in Healthcare Course, a two-semester IPE course. Social work students completed the Interprofessional Attitudes Scale (IPAS) both pre/post course participation to assess their competence in interprofessional collaboration, communication, values/ethics, and teamwork. Researchers incorporated template analysis, a form of thematic analysis, to analyze data from social work students’ end-of-course reflection essays that queried specific facets of the course and pedagogy that fostered personal and interprofessional identity transformation.


Forty-eight students completed both pre and post IPAS assessments. A paired-sample t-test revealed no remarkable differences between pre and post IPAS subscale or total scores. However, social work students scored relatively high in terms of interprofessional competency. Cronbach’s alpha scores for subscale and total scores ranged from .41 to .80. Analysis of 113 social work student reflections revealed four main themes: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; taking leadership; finding our voice; and future practice. Social work students highlighted the role of team-based role plays and simulated case enactment with actors as being instrumental in their ability to practice the embodiment of leadership skills and demonstrate their value in bolstering team performance, cohesion, and patient safety. Students’ newly acquired interprofessional leadership skills transferred to field placements and their desire to participate in collaborative health practice in the future.

Conclusions and Implications:

Social work students reported feeling better prepared for interprofessional practice after taking the course than they had prior. Although there was no significant difference in post-course IPAS scores, social workers scored high on the overall measure. The courses’ interprofessional challenges and collaborations increased social workers’ confidence and competence for executing clinical skills and leadership roles in healthcare settings. Students treasured simulated learning activities in which they often showed interprofessional strengths and demonstrated unique skills to solve challenging case dynamics.

Social work educators and practitioners should continue to provide IPE at all levels of curriculum design and implementation. Extended exposure to interprofessional collaborative education enables social work students to obtain practice opportunities to explore interpersonal power struggles, ethical challenges, and simulated clinical activities within a learning environment . Not only does IPE cultivate a confident and competent social work workforce, it also educates other professionals about the vital role of social work in changing healthcare systems and promoting health equity.