Methods: A cross-sectional online survey for licensed social workers in Ohio was conducted from December 2020 to January 2021 to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on social workers’ mental health. Of 441 completed responses from the survey, the study sample was restricted to 350 respondents who experienced working as a team in agencies or with private services. To examine an IPC measurement, we used the Assessment of Interprofessional Team Collaboration Scale II (AITCS-II), which consisted of 23 items that ranged from 23 to 115 in three domains of collaboration (i.e., partnership-8 items; cooperation-8 items; and coordination-7 items). The scores for AITCS-II before and during COVID-19 were assessed in a retrospective approach by asking respondents about their IPC experiences before the occurrence of COVID-19, in order to estimate the effect of COVID-19 on the change in social work practitioners’ IPC.
Results: Demographic statistics described the characteristics of respondents’ discipline categories: respondents most frequently worked with social workers (52.8%), followed by registered nurses (33.9%), physicians (24.3%), practical nurses (16.5%), and clinical psychologists (14.6%). Results from paired samples t-test analyses showed that the total scores significantly decreased during the pandemic (M = 98.47, SD = 14.02), compared to those before COVID-19 (M = 92.70, SD = 17.35), t(322) = 9.65, p < .001, r = .79. Specifically, average scores in each domain have been decreased from 35.70 (SD = 4.50) to 33.23 (SD = 6.04) in partnership; from 34.52 (SD = 5.20) to 32.73 (SD = 6.66) in cooperation; and from 28.28 (SD = 5.82) to 26.84 (SD = 6.41) in coordination, each at the .001 level of significance.
Conclusions and Implications: The results suggest a significant challenge in the dynamics of teamwork among practitioners as well as a shrink in the amount of IPC experiences in the COVID-19 pandemic. The stable interprofessional education (IPE) for social work practitioners can be a way to improve motivation for IPC as a growing body of research suggests a positive linkage between the exposure to IPE and IPC. In addition, the development of remote IPC methods (e.g., utilization of online team meeting systems) is needed to help practitioners provide appropriate services by sustaining IPC in socially isolating situations.