The added value of social workers and psychosocial services

The top recommendation in the April 9 McKnight’s article “Researchers share 6 tips to improve nursing home care for blacks and Latinos” was to include a social worker on staff in the facility. “Great,” a reader commented, but “ask CMS … if they will pay for it.”

Perhaps, though better yet, social workers will pay for themselves.

A study published in March discussed the role and value of social work staff, with the surprising finding that deficiency scores are reduced twice as much when there’s an increase in social service staffing as compared to an increase in nursing staff. Lower deficiency scores can translate into better CMS star ratings and increased admissions, as well as reduced liability risk, creating a financial savings worth the price of a social worker salary.

The research brief goes on to report that while there’s been an increase in staffing in many other departments over time, the number of social workers remains low. The authors also note that there are no mandated qualifications for social work staff but that when social workers have higher qualifications such as a master’s degree, resident outcomes improve.

Interestingly, the other department that had almost as much effect on improving deficiency scores was the activities department, another psychosocially focused part of the team. (They didn’t study consulting psychologists, but I’d like to think we would have helped as well!)

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The added value of social workers and psychosocial services

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