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Medical Social Work and Teamwork

The philosophy behind teamwork is based on the assumption that the efforts of various professionals could create a synergy providing more effective treatment for the patients. Cooperation creates a fusion of multiple perspectives on the patient’s case, increases the efficacy of assessment involving diverse knowledge, and addresses health disparities and linguacultural factors (Berkman, 2011; Minetti, 2011; Mitchell et al., 2012). Thus, the interdisciplinary team presents a holistic view especially beneficial for individuals diagnosed with complex diseases.

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Teams of health care professionals could be presented in various forms. Collaboration types include a consultative approach, multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and trans-disciplinary teams (CSWE Gero-Ed Center, n. d.). Compositions of interdisciplinary teams might differ due to patients’ conditions, chosen course of treatment, and workforce availability. The core members are nurses, social workers, and physicians (Bonifas & Gray, 2013). However, teams could include psychiatry, psychology, nutrition, and chaplaincy specialists (Maramaldi et al., 2014). Collaborations could function on a short-term or long-term basis, work in the outpatient setting, disaster response, emergency units, hospitals, and hospices, be geographically disparate. (Mitchell et al., 2012). Members should understand shared responsibilities, establish common goals and rules for conducting meetings, resolve conflicts, make collective decisions, support each other (Partnership for Health in Aging, 2011). They also should be flexible to changing situations, make reviews, and perform administrative tasks.

The requirements for effective interdisciplinary practice include values and principles essential for productive collaboration. Patients and their families should be integrated into teams (Maramaldi et al., 2014). The team members should share five values: honesty, discipline, creativity, humility, and curiosity (Mitchell et al., 2012). Professionals should follow the principles of teamwork: establish common goals, clearly know their roles, trust their colleagues, refine communication skills, and constantly measure processes and consequences.

When working in a team, social workers may face different challenging situations. The frustrating issues relate to lack of resources, absence of personnel, lack of appreciation, difficulties in task-allocation, communication, definitions of roles, cultural differences (Beder & Postiglione, 2013; Maramaldi et al., 2014). In general, social workers in an interdisciplinary team should facilitate interactions between people, provide health literacy among patients, play roles of advocates, help patients navigate the system, find affordable resources, and manage their care (Beder & Postiglione, 2013; Maramaldi et al., 2014). In geriatrics, social workers promote advanced multidimensional assessment, end-of-life planning, and ethical decision-making process (Berkman, 2011). Hence, the roles of social workers might differ due to settings and circumstances.


Beder, J., & Postiglione, P. (2013). Social work in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) System: Rewards, challenges, roles and interventions. Social Work in Health Care, 52(5), 421–433. Web.

Berkman, B. J. (2011). Seizing interdisciplinary opportunities in the changing landscape of health and aging: A social work perspective. Gerontologist, 51(4), 433–440. Web.

Bonifas, R. P., & Gray, A. K. (2013). Preparing social work students for interprofessional practice in geriatric health care: Insights from two approaches. Educational Gerontology, 39(7), 476–490. Web.

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CSWE Gero-Ed Center. (n. d.). Interdisciplinary teamwork teaching module. Web.

Maramaldi, P., Sobran, A., Scheck, L., Cusato, N., Lee, I., White, E., & Cadet, T. J. (2014). Interdisciplinary medical social work: A working taxonomy. Social Work in Health Care, 53(6), 532-551. Web.

Minetti, A. (2011). Working together. An interdisciplinary approach to dying patients in a palliative care unit. Journal of Medical Ethics, 37(12), 715-718. Web.

Mitchell, P., Wynia, M., Golden, R., McNellis, B., Okun, S., Webb, C. E., Rohrbach, V., & Von Kohorn, I. (2012, October). Core principles & values of effective team-based health care [Discussion paper]. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine. Web.

Partnership for Health in Aging. (2011). Position statement on interdisciplinary team training in geriatrics. An essential component of quality healthcare for older adults. American Geriatrics Society. Web.

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