Peninsula Health social workers win prestigious award for co-authorship of research publication

In 2023 Peninsula Health Senior Social Worker Louisa Whitwam, along with researchers from Monash University, authored an article which was published in the journal Australian Social Work.

The article Clinician Perspectives of the Evidence Underpinning Suicide Risk Assessment: A mixed Methods Study was based on research conducted at Peninsula Health and has been awarded the prestigious Norm Smith Publication in Social Work Research Award.

Manager of Children’s Services Louisa Whitwam was involved in this project. “My role in the research was coordinating the participants, who were a mix of social workers within the health service in a social work specific role, and also a group who were social workers in the health service and were working within mental health,” she said.

The mixed methods qualitative research investigated what underpins a generalist social worker’s decision-making process, when presented with meta-analysis surrounding suicide risk. Outcomes were compared to participants who were mental health clinicians in specialist roles. In-depth interviews were also conducted with participants.

 “The research was seeking to understand which types of assessment tools people use; whether they use experiential decision making, or whether they use the evidence, and how they process an action,” Louisa explained.

“The key findings were that social workers in the generalist health (hospital) setting use decision making based on academic reasoning when making decisions about suicide risk assessments,” Louisa added.

“On the other hand, mental health practitioners; including social workers in the mental health setting were more commonly referring to experiential reasoning when they undertook suicide risk assessment.”

There is a lot of “further work to do in research as to how both professional groups best respond to the crisis of suicide,” Louisa said, adding that she hoped Peninsula Health social workers would continue to be at the forefront of research opportunities.

The Norm Smith Award in Social Work Research is an annual award presented by the Australian Social Work journal for the best research published, that makes a significant contribution to understandings in the field of social work.

We congratulate Louisa and the Peninsula Health Social Work team on this amazing achievement.