Date of Conferral
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
There is significant documentation showing that health disparities experienced by underserved persons can be mitigated through the provision of quality integrated healthcare. This research project was grounded in social support theory and how support influences improvements in physical, psychological, and overall health. Social workers in integrated healthcare are in a unique position to be the source of social support for individuals experiencing health disparities, yet there is little research concerning how these social workers are providing services and how they affect health outcomes. This research addressed gaps in the literature concerning social worker roles in order to improve integrated healthcare for underserved populations. Data was gathered from social workers employed by Federally Qualified Health Care integrated facilities in Colorado that treated underserved populations. An action research methodology was used to investigate social worker roles through the utilization of a focus group (N = 4); there were 4 emergent themes. These themes were: social workers supporting patients and staff, influencing quality healthcare integration, possessing certain characteristics and competencies, and performing role responsibilities. Support through the use of personal characteristics, competencies, and role responsibilities was identified by stakeholders as the foundation of quality integrated healthcare. The potential impact of understanding social worker roles may include improved health outcomes for individuals served, improved social work practice, improved integrated healthcare provision, gaps in the literature filled, positive social change, and contribution to a wider body of knowledge.