Date of Conferral
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
People with end-stage renal disease have higher rates of mental health diagnoses due to sudden changes in health status, lack of effective support systems, and diminished survival rates. The purpose of this action research study, and research question posed, centered on how dialysis clinical social workers perceive their roles in providing consultation to the interdisciplinary team members on how to identify and respond to patients with mental illnesses. An interview guide was used to gather data by facilitating 3 focus groups with 7 dialysis social workers in a rural town in Texas. The theory of planned behavior was used to inform clinical social workers' understanding of their roles and responsibilities when interfacing with patients displaying symptoms of mental illnesses. A thematic analysis coding technique was used to analyze the data collected. Solutions explored included (a) increasing education efforts with interdisciplinary team members on the importance of consulting with the social worker on ways to identify and respond to patients with mental illnesses, and (b) ways to increase teammate support within the dialysis setting. This study clarifies dialysis social workers' roles and responsibilities when responding to dialysis patients with mental illnesses and guides them to enhance the capacity of the multidisciplinary dialysis team by improving inter-professional communication. The implications for social change through enhanced continuing education efforts designed to increase social work engagement and effective communication strategies within interdisciplinary teams are discussed. These social change efforts aim to enhance the overall wellbeing of dialysis patients with co-occurring mental health illnesses in rural settings.