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Social workers constitute the third largest group of providers in team-based primary health care (PHC), following physicians and nurses. Social workers provide psychosocial, mental health care, health promotion, case management, patient education, and end-of-life care. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers in PHC indicated significant impacts on their practice due to increasing complexities of clients and transitioning to virtual care. Our study will seek to examine the daily practice of social workers in PHC teams during the pandemic, with the goal of offering recommendations on how to organize social work practice in PHC. Doing so will enable social workers in PHC to better meet the robust mental health and complex patient needs presenting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research questions are: 1) What is the role of social work practice in PHC teams across Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic? 2) What is the actual and recommended organization of social work practice in PHC teams across Ontario?


To determine how best to organize social work practice in PHC teams across Ontario post COVID-19 pandemic.

Study Design

Mixed-methods study running in parallel consisting of: 1) online survey consisting of open and closed-ended questions. The survey consists of a demographic questionnaire and includes questions on the role of social work, and the current and optimal state of how social work practice is organized. 2) Descriptive qualitative design using focus groups for data collection.


Social workers will share their experiences through the survey and focus groups. The semi-structured focus groups will last 60 minutes each and be conducted on an online platform. Focus groups will be audio-recorded and transcribed into verbatim text which will be analyzed using content analysis. Data collection and analysis will occur simultaneously. Our Community Partners will assist in disseminating study materials to potential participants.


Our findings will directly inform the organization of social workers in PHC across Ontario. As social work faces the same challenges worldwide, these findings will impact the organization of social workers in different contexts.

Upon completion of this session, participants should be able to

  1. Describe the role of social work in primary health care teams
  2. Explain a mixed-methods design, and how it is useful for research in primary health care

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