The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the largest employer of master’s level social workers in the United States (Department of Veteran Affairs). Social Workers have been employed in the VA since 1926. The VA currently employs over 19,000 social workers nationally and because of this sheer scope in number requires critical approaches to ensuring that supervision in regard to administrative, educational, and supportive supervision are consistent across all locations.Social work within the VA provides services to veterans that touch upon a myriad of programs including mental health, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, suicide prevention, geriatrics, primary care, homeless services, and caregiver support. The nature of the vast types of services that social workers provide in this system call for a unified approach to training and supporting supervisors responsible for the oversite to social work staff in cross sectioned areas, requiring a level of competent knowledge and expertise that spans across specialties.
Since the Covid 19 pandemic, staffing has suffered with a large exodus of healthcare providers including qualified social workers. The lack of resources and the staffing shortages have left social workers still working in the VA healthcare system with large caseloads, feelings of burnout and cross covering in areas outside their primary area of expertise. Supervisors in the system have often been quickly promoted to cover administrative responsibilities with little education, training or mentoring to prepare them for the role. The lack of adequate supervisory support is leading to the turnover rates and ultimately impacting patient care provided of these critical services from social work.
Organizational support for adequate and consistent supervision provided to social workers in the VA is critical to motivating and retaining staff in this growing resource constrained setting. Review of the research and current literature supports that the provision of quality supervision plays an integral role in reducing turn-over rates, burnout, overall job satisfaction and patient outcomes. The following review of the literature posits that the importance of consistent provision and oversite of supportive supervision to social workers in healthcare settings such as the VA is critical to retention efforts and patient outcomes.
April 25, 2023 3:10 PM – 4:10 PM EDT
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