Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Are Social Workers Really Engaging in EBP?: A Cross-Sectional Survey (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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438P (see Poster Gallery) Are Social Workers Really Engaging in EBP?: A Cross-Sectional Survey

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Danielle Parrish, PhD, Professor, Baylor University, Houston, TX
Jennifer Bellamy, PhD, Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Allen Rubin, PhD, Jean Kantambu Latting College Professorship of Leadership and Social Change, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Joanne Yaffe, PhD, Professor of Social Work and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background/Purpose: The evidence-based practice (EBP) process has been widely adopted and disseminated in social work education over the last two decades. Leading social work organizations - including NASW, CSWE and SSWR - have supported the use of this process, which includes the integration of the best available evidence with clinical expertise and client preferences and culture when making practice decisions. It also emphasizes the importance of evaluating the outcomes of these practice decisions. While prior surveys of social work practitioners assessed attitudes, perceived feasibility, engagement and intentions to engage, there is a paucity of more recent results to assess whether EBP engagement has increased as a result of the dissemination of EBP training and its adoption across the profession. The purpose of this cross-sectional survey is to assess more recent engagement in the EBP process, as well as factors that may hinder or facilitate engagement.

Methods: An online, cross sectional survey (N=293) of NASW Texas members assessed current engagement in various steps of the EBP process, as well as factors hindering or facilitating engagement. Descriptive statistics and Kendall’s tau were used for univariate and bivariate analyses. Non-response bias was assessed and not found to be a problem per a question assessing reasons for non-response.

Results: Respondents were 74% white, 17% Latinx/Hispanic, 5% Black, 84% female, and employed as a social worker for 18 years on average (SD=14). The largest proportion worked in micro (63%) settings and public agencies (46%). EBP was emphasized in the classroom moderately or very much for 64% of respondents, it was less frequently (33%) emphasized in field moderately/very much. Respondents engaged in each step often or very often in the following frequencies: 73% used research-based evidence; 60% searched for research evidence; 51% critically appraised research; and 69% evaluated practice outcomes. Higher levels of prior EBP MSW education was associated with increased use of research when making practice decisions (rt = .13; p=.02) and increased searching for research evidence (rt = .14; p=.014). Prior MSW training was not associated with increased critical appraisal of research (p=.57) or evaluation of practice outcomes (p=.52). The most common EBP engagement barriers included access to resources and training (32%), and agency deciding kinds of interventions used (24%). Most effective ways identified by social workers to increase EBP included providing EBP training continuing education opportunities on the EBP (54%), and increasing MSW program EBP emphasis (17%) and access to journal articles (13%).

Conclusions/Implications: Social workers reported high levels of engagement in all aspects of the EBP process, yet many reported a need for increased training during and after the MSW program. Prior MSW EBP education is associated with higher levels of searching and using research to inform practice decisions, yet critical appraisal of this evidence and evaluation of practice is not associated with prior graduate training emphasis on EBP. Increased focus on EBP in the curriculum, in particular in field settings, as well as post-MSW training in the EBP process, may further increase engagement in these most difficult aspects of the process.