Social Work Assistant Project Royal Hobart Hospital

Mr Brett Orchard1

1Ths, Honeywood, Australia


AHA’s are an integral part of health services at the RHH. They are well utilised by many disciplines but not by Social Work. Social Workers are often diverted from core business assessing and addressing psycho-social issues due to administrative and practical tasks that demand time and attention in an acute setting.  There is much scope for SWA’s to be utilised for some of these tasks and to “value add”. Up to May last year only one SWA existed in THS. At that time we began a pilot program to introduce the role to THS south.


A review of literature from both Victoria and Queensland on the usage of SWA’s was undertaken.  We also met with the only other SWA in Tasmania at NWRH.  The position and statement of duties were developed along with guidelines and systems. The initial roll out began with the RHH acute medical team.


Now over a year into the project it has had a positive impact.  It has given Social Work at the RHH capacity to offer support for patients and families where there was, prior to that time, limited capacity for those types of practical supports.  It has enabled Social Workers to be freed up from many administrative tasks such as MAIB claims, patient travel and accommodation matters.  The role is still developing and further analysis will be undertaken.


Initially the SWA role had been viewed with some concern due to perceptions that it had the potential to undervalue the SW role.  The inclusion of Social Work assistants is not a common part of Social Work education and there was learning to occur in relation to delegation of tasks. The position is now a permanent feature in the service, with plans to expand the role into other practice areas.


Brett Orchard has been a Social Worker with DHHS and THS since 2002. Prior to that time, he was a radio announcer and real estate agent. He spent several years working with young offenders and also was instrumental in setting up a youth specific drug rehabilitation program. Brett has also worked with the Education Department as a social worker and project officer. He began with RHH about 6 years ago and recently has worked setting up the Social Work Assistant role at the hospital.

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