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24-Hour Snapshot: Evidencing Social Work Practice in Hospital Emergency Departments

Emergency Departments (EDs) are the 'front door' of a health facility and, for many people, form their primary contact with the health care system, providing an important interface between the community and health facilities (Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, 2009). Social Work (SW) is one of the three key professions (alongside medical and nursing) that work in an ED. Yet there is little documented evidence about the scope of social work practice in hospital Emergency Departments in Australia.

This project aims to document the scope and conduct of social work practice within two Queensland ED’s at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) and Toowoomba Base Hospital (TBH), using a comprehensive audit tool. The validated audit tool had previously been used to conduct a 24 hour practice audit of 550 social workers across 14 hospitals and mental health services in Victoria (Joubert, 2017).

The grant funds would enable Ms. Rebecca McKimmie, Senior Social Worker - ED at PAH, to have time off line to coordinate Steps 1-3 and play a role in the data extraction and dissemination component of Step 4.

Step 1: Organise a consensus conference with the Victorian researchers, PAH and TBH participants to adapt the tool to the ED context; identify the mechanisms required to support the participating SWs in audit data collection; and coordinate their training in the use of the audit tool.

Step 2: In the week prior to the snapshot, undertake any of the preparatory work to ensure that support systems are in place for the data collection.

Step 3: Coordinate and support the participating Social Workers on the day of the 24 hour ED snapshot.

Step 4: Extract demographic data from the patient electronic medical record to combine with the audit data, interview the social workers about their experience, analyse results and then disseminate the results.

Step 5: Review feasibility data collected in relation to the 24 hour snapshot approach.

The team has scoped the literature, and is in the final stages of submitting an ethics application.


Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. March; 2009.

Joubert, L. (2017). A report for stakeholders. Melbourne, University of Melbourne.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers