AbstractsSocial Work

A study of factors associated with the turnover of social workers in hospital settings a naturalistic inquiry

by Rosalie Pockett

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Social Sciences & International Studies
Year: 2000
Keywords: hospital social work; turnover; recruitment & retention
Record ID: 1032162
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/39488


This inquiry investigated the phenomenon of 'staying' as a feature of the turnover, recruitment and retention of social workers in hospital settings. In the absence of specific literature on the subject, the study made a significant and original contribution to knowledge about social work staff turnover, including the meaning attached to work, the relationship of social workers to the hospital organisation, and to job satisfaction. Using qualitative methodology, data were collected from multiple sources including in-depth interviews at two large Sydney Teaching Hospitals, a period of engagement in each Social Work Department, a comprehensive review of primary data from archival records of the Directors of Social Work Services in Teaching Hospitals (NSW) between 1981-1999, and secondary source materials of federal and state health policy documents. Two core categories emerged from the study which were social workers 'tolerance' of the hospital environment and their qualities of 'selfactualisation'. Of central importance to the inquiry was the discovery of grounded theory which explained the relationship of these categories to the phenomenon of 'staying'. The intersection of 'tolerance' and 'self- actualisation' qualified 'staying' as either a positive or negative experience for the social worker and the hospital. This theory was presented as an original model which with further refinement, could be used as a predictive tool in studies of turnover of social workers in hospital settings. The findings challenged existing theories that staff retention was preferable to staff turnover in hospital organisations and identified qualities in hospital social workers which would ensure the continuing relevance of social work to the changing hospital environment. The model has implications for hospitals, Social Work Departments and for social work education in the preparation and training of social workers to join the hospital workforce. Specific activities that supported the 'self-actualisation' of social workers, and aspects of 'tolerance' were identified which worked for the benefit of both social workers and hospitals.