Who Hires Social Workers? Structural and Contextual Determinants of Social Service Staffing in Nursing Homes

Source: Amy Restorick Roberts and John R. Bowblis, Health & Social Work, Advance Access, First published online: December 7, 2016
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From the abstract:
Although nurse staffing has been extensively studied within nursing homes (NHs), social services has received less attention. The study describes how social service departments are organized in NHs and examines the structural characteristics of NHs and other macro-focused contextual factors that explain differences in social service staffing patterns using longitudinal national data (Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports, 2009–2012). NHs have three patterns of staffing for social services, using qualified social workers (QSWs); paraprofessional social service staff; and interprofessional teams, consisting of both QSWs and paraprofessionals. Although most NHs employ a QSW (89 percent), nearly half provide social services through interprofessional teams, and 11 percent rely exclusively on paraprofessionals. Along with state and federal regulations that depend on facility size, other contextual and structural factors within NHs also influence staffing. NHs most likely to hire QSWs are large facilities in urban areas within a health care complex, owned by nonprofit organizations, with more payer mixes associated with more profitable reimbursement. QSWs are least likely to be hired in small facilities in rural areas. The influence of policy in supporting the professionalization of social service staff and the need for QSWs with expertise in gerontology, especially in rural NHs, are discussed.