Date of Conferral





Human Services


Gregory P. Hickman


The National Alliance on Mental Illness surmised that 1 in 25 (9.8 million) adults in the United States are diagnosed with a serious mental illness annually. Of the 9.8 million people diagnosed, approximately 63% of them are psychiatrically hospitalized with repeat hospitalizations within 1 year of discharge. Social workers play a vital role in the treatment modalities of the patients they serve in the psychiatric hospital; however, there is no research that examined the professional systemic experiences of social workers in state, inpatient psychiatric hospitals and how these experiences may affect treatment outcomes of patients as it relates to frequent inpatient hospitalizations. In this qualitative case study, grounded in systems theory, five social workers employed by a state, inpatient psychiatric hospital were interviewed via video and phone conference. Utilizing thematic-narrative analysis, five themes emerged: (a) insufficient time spent with patients, (b) prioritization of discharging patients and frequent hospitalizations, (c) the levels of support throughout the system, (d) the potential for burnout and job performance, and (e) interactions with patients and commitment to service. The findings of this study confirmed the social workers professional experiences in a state, inpatient psychiatric hospital had an effect on the service delivery to the patients. While the social workers’ experiences were a personal journey, there is evidence to suggest some of those experiences were system-driven. This research may bring more open conversations, implementation of much needed initiatives surrounding mental health, and changes in the field of social work and mental health.