table of contents | abstracts

Social Work in a Multi-Professional Environment
Juha Hämäläinen
Erja Widgren

Social work is part of a multi-professional network of social services in the Nordic countries. The special know-how and attitudes required for cooperation are an essential part of social workers' professional skills. Cooperation between different occupational groups vary in content, form, and intensity, and concerns both client-related and administrative matters. Cooperation can be divided into cooperation inside and among organizations.

The need for the developing of cooperation has been justified by economic arguments and the interests of the client. Problems hindering cooperation are varying organizational cultures and professional principles, professional specialization, professional power, administrative hindrances, and personal characteristics of workers. Strict confidentiality regulations can obstruct the intended cooperation.

The aim of the cooperation between social and health services is that services are easily available and clients get better and more humane help.

In the Nordic model, social work is regarded as part of a comprehensive multi-professional system of welfare services. Social work is done in cooperation with representatives of many professions; the cooperation varies in form and content with different sectors of the welfare service system.

One of the goals in the Nordic system of welfare services has been to increase interprofessional cooperation. This has been persued by cooperation groups inside each sector. Joint administrative coordination of different organizations, regionalization of welfare services, and legislative obligations have been the central administrative measures for increasing interprofessional cooperation, lowering the threshold of cooperation, and removing obstacles which hinder cooperation.

Professional cooperation of social workers with the representatives of other professions can be administrative or client related. It can be more or less nominal and occasional or regular, systematic, intensive, and programmatic (Bruce, 1980; Hallet & Stevenson, 1980; Westrin, 1986). The cooperation can be the exchange of information through telephone, consulting, work in multi-professional groups, or developing joint projects.

Traditionally, social and health services have been sectorized; separated administratively in the Nordic countries. As a result, legislation does not usually oblige the administrations of different social and health service sectors to cooperate, although it often creates premises for it. Cooperation between the social workers and the representatives of other occupational groups is seldom required by law. However, social workers work increasingly in a variety of multi-professional, network-styled cooperation projects and teams.

Copyright for the I.U.C. / B.S.U. Journal of Social Work Theory and Practice is owned by the Social Work Program, Department of Social Relations and Services, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minnesota, USA. One copy may be made (printed) for personal use; teachers may make multiple copies for student use if the copies are made available to students without charge. Permission must be secured from the editors for sale of any copies of articles or for any commercial use of the material published in the Journal.

2001 Copyright BSU/IUC Journal of Social Work Theory & Practice