Abstract: The Organizational Outcomes of Social Work and Human Services Supervision: A Scoping Review (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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444P The Organizational Outcomes of Social Work and Human Services Supervision: A Scoping Review

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Karen Sewell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Margaret Janse Van Rensburg, MSW, Doctoral Student, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Claire McMenemy, MSW, Doctoral Student, Carleton University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Heather MacDonald, Information Specialist/Librarian, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Background: Social work is a demanding and fulfilling profession, often characterized by requirements of emotional labor in challenging environments. Supervision is positioned as a resource to buffer stressors, while enhancing practitioner well-being and performance. To date, the extent of evidence on the organizational impacts of supervision in human service organizations is largely inaccessible. And given structural workplace pressures, the justification for organizational support of supervision requires further exploration. We therefore present a scoping review of 175 published articles, synthesizing the heterogenous and complex social work and interdisciplinary literature which reports on the organizational impact of supervision. Our objectives were to: 1) summarize the evidence published since 2011 on the organizational outcomes/impacts of the supervision of social work and human service workers and 2) identify key concepts and clarify definitions; and examine how outcomes were identified and measured.

Methods: We followed the five steps of Arksey & O’Malley (2005)’s scoping review framework: identifying research questions, identifying relevant studies, selecting studies, charting/extracting the data, and collating, summarizing and reporting results. Guided by our scoping review protocol, we identified relevant studies through searching seven databases using the concepts of human service professions (e.g., social work, mental health professionals) and supervis*. We enhanced rigor and transparency through adhering to the PRISMA Extension for Scoping Reviews reporting guideline.

Results: The database search resulted in 16 843 records. Removing duplicates, each title and abstract of 8692 articles was screened by two research team members, resulting in 998 articles which were independently full text screened by two team members. Database searches resulted in 160 articles, with 15 additional studies identified through reference lists. A total of 175 articles were included.

Most studies were conducted in United States (57%, n=100), with 49% (n=85) authored by social work scholars. Studies employed quantitative (68%, n=119), qualitative (20%, n=35), and mixed methods designs (12%, n=21). Many studies were conducted within settings qualifying as child and family services (32%, n=56), or behavioral and mental health (21%, n=37).

We found a wide range of supervision constructs examined (n=192). These include supervisory support (23%, n=45), relationship (11%, n=21), and supervision frequency (9%, n=17). Of particular importance, only 14 articles (8%) defined, measured, and specified what supervision meant for the reported study, and only 26% of supervisory measurement constructs used validated measures. Of organizational outcomes reported, job satisfaction was the most reported outcome (34.2%, n=26), and validated measures were used in 45.8% (n=120) of the quantitative outcome evaluations.

Studies found supervision had an ameliorative impact 63.6% of the time (n=220), as compared with detrimental impact only 2.6% of the time (n=9). Supervision had a mixed impact on 12.7% (n=44) of organizational outcomes, and a neutral or non-significant impact on 21.0% (n=73) of outcomes.

Conclusion and Implications: This scoping review contributes an understanding of the outcomes of supervision for social work and human services in the available literature. Findings support the value of supervision for practitioners and organizations, although methodological concerns plague the empirical literature and limit resulting implications. We make recommendations for future research.