The Phenomenological Evaluation of Social Worker Competencies in Patient-Centered Medical Homes

Veda Stalling, Walden University


The Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) is an innovative, team-based health care model that was applied during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, the competencies for PCMH health care social worker team members are not identified within this model. Thus, the purpose of this phenomenological study focused on identifying the core competencies that will enable social workers to perform competently in PCMHs. This study also explored the roles and training needs as related to improving the competence of social workers. Sandberg’s and Parry’s conceptualization of the competency model was used as the theoretical framework. Data were acquired through interviews with 10 PCMH social workers. These data were then inductively coded and analyzed using a modified Moustakas method. Key findings indicated that these social workers believed that improvements in competencies may include training and knowledge with mental health and physical health knowledge which consist of diagnoses, interventions, medications, symptoms, and terminology. It was also noted that knowledge of evidence-based practices for mental health interventions and patient-centered, team-based principles were essential to ACA policy implementation. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to health care leadership, educational institutions, and other PCMH providers to develop competency-based training for social workers. Recommendations are also put forth to adapt social work curriculum to ensure the effective implementation of the principles of the ACA policy and to improve social work practice in PCMH health care settings.