Making Practice Decisions: Is What's Good for the Goose Good for the Gander?
This study explored criteria social workers and social work students reported using to make decisions in three situations: with clients, when seeking help from a physician regarding a serious medical problem of their own, and criteria they would ideally like to use when working with clients. Criteria included both those that do not provide a rigorous appraisal of the accuracy of claims such as experience with a few cases and what is usually offered in an agency, and criteria reflecting a rigorous appraisal of claims such as results of controlled experimental studies. Results showed that in five samples of social workers and social work students (n = 207), respondents would hold their doctor to a statistically significantly higher standard of evidence than they would themselves. That is, respondents reported reliance on weak criteria when making decisions about their clients but wanted their physicians to rely on rigorous criteria. They reported that, ideally, they would like to use evidence-based criteria to make practice decisions. Possible reasons for reported use of different criteria in different situations are discussed and suggestions made for encouraging social workers to be more evidence-based (e.g., to search for research findings related to important practice decisions and critically appraise what is found as required by their professional code of ethics).
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