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Strategies used by inpatient VA social workers to facilitate their emotional well-being and job retention during the COVID-19 pandemic

Kranke DA, Mudoh Y, Gioia D, Solorzano E, Dobalian A. Strategies used by inpatient VA social workers to facilitate their emotional well-being and job retention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of social service research. 2023 Feb 6;

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The COVID-19 pandemic has created many unprecedented stressors among inpatient social workers. Stressors can impact provider turnover and quality of care to clients. Recent research suggests strategies that social work providers can engage in to facilitate peer support and address individual concerns during the pandemic. The purpose of this study is to explore the presence of nuanced strategies-emotional connectedness and emotional preparedness-that facilitated inpatient social workers' well-being who retained employment during the pandemic. Researchers conducted thematic analyses of 12 social workers in two US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers across the US. Sample consisted of (n = 10) females, and (n = 9) who worked in the VA setting for less than two years. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted via Microsoft Teams software since in-person interviews were avoided out of precaution. A priori themes and open coding were applied. Results illustrate social workers endorsed multiple strategies of both emotional connectedness and emotional preparedness. Emerging themes included frustration tolerance and concerns with addressing events that precipitated the pandemic. Physical contact was avoided for fear of infection. Findings demonstrate that engaging in strategies of emotional connectedness and emotional preparedness facilitated social workers' well-being and job retention. Future research should assess if these strategies are also utilized among outpatient social workers in other settings and roles when delivering crucial social services.

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