Integrating social workers into primary care: physician and nurse perceptions of roles, benefits, and challenges

Soc Work Health Care. 2009;48(6):579-96. doi: 10.1080/00981380902765592.


The primary aim of this article is to identify, from the perspective of primary care physicians and nurses, the challenges encountered in provision of health care to older adults and to identify potential roles, challenges, and benefits of integrating social workers into primary care teams. As more older adults live longer with multiple chronic conditions, primary care has been confronted with complex psychosocial problems that interact with medical problems pointing to a potential role for a social worker. From a policy perspective, the lack of strong evidence documenting the benefits that will accrue to patients and providers is a key barrier preventing the wider use of social workers in primary care. This article presents findings from three focus groups with primary care physicians and nurses to examine the perspectives of these key providers about the benefits and challenges of integrating social workers into the primary care team.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services for the Aged*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nurses
  • Physicians
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Professional Role
  • Social Work*