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Jan 10, 2019

Today, I talk to Jonathan Singer, host of The Social Work Podcast as well as associate professor at Loyola University Chicago School of Social Work. I asked Jonathan to come on the podcast today because I’ve had this growing sense of disconnect between all the talk about social determinants of health, all the talk about how clinical care has a relatively small impact on patient outcomes compared to environmental factors, how the most important number in health care is someone’s zip code. All this talk swirling around, and rarely do social workers come up in the conversationat least at the level that you’d think they would, given the number of years of education they have in addressing the environmental factors in question.

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Jonathan B. Singer, PhD, LCSW, is associate professor of social work at Loyola University Chicago, secretary of the American Association of Suicidology, and an award-winning author and podcaster. His research on youth suicide and cyberbullying has been featured on NPR and Fox, and in Time magazine and The Guardian. He is the founder and host of the award-winning Social Work Podcast, with over 5 million episode downloads and 30,000 followers on social media. He lives in Evanston, Illinois, with his wife and 3 children and can be found on Twitter as @socworkpodcast and Facebook at


Moniz C. Social work and the social determinants of health perspective: a good fit. Health Soc Work. 2010;35(4):310-313.

Beth Wharff and her social work colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital wrote about the success of their interventions with suicidal youth who presented at the emergency department: Wharff EA, Ginnis KB, Ross AM, White EM, White MT, Forbes PW. Family‑based crisis intervention with suicidal adolescents: a randomized clinical trial [published online ahead of print February 2017]. Pediatr Emerg Care. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000001076.

01:56 What #socialworkers do and think about things.
03:34 Getting caught up on terms like “#socialdeterminants.”
04:10 #Healthcare vs #socialcare.
04:23 “Health care is part of social care, rather than social care being part of health care.”
05:25 “You can’t be effective in people’s lives without being #interdisciplinary.”
07:16 Understanding “legitimate” #dischargeplanning.
08:50 Social workers vs nurses.
09:04 “#Nursing is essential.”
09:32 “[Social workers] have the personal connection to make sure this is happening.”
09:57 “#Nurses are trained not to override the #doctor.”
10:18 “That sort of level of mutual respect is essential.”
10:51 The lack of appreciation for the skills that a #socialworker has.
12:58 “As with anything, there’s a range.”
14:31 The myth of the social worker.
15:00 “Let’s bring in #socialwork when we don’t know what else to do.”—#Hospitals
17:36 Primary care provider (#PCP) as the “quarterback of care.”
18:55 “It’s a problem in perception.”
19:30 Social workers and #efficiency in #medicine.
20:11 Jonathan’s advice to #payer and #healthsystem executives.
20:23 “Stop thinking of social workers as discharge planners.”
21:41 “Have social workers do social care.”
21:49 “Have social workers in … authority-making positions.
23:45 “My expertise matters.”
25:03 The need for interdisciplinary teams.
26:21 Finding a middle ground for patients who want to leave their hospital care but aren’t medically ready to go home.
29:09 “What’s the role of the social worker?”