Care Management for Older Adults: The Roles of Nurses, Social Workers, and Physicians

Karen Donelan
Yuchiao Chang
Julie Berrett-Abebe
Joanne Spetz
David I. Auerbach
Linda Norman
Peter I. Buerhaus
Peer-Reviewed Article
June 2019

This resource describes and analyzes the different professional compositions of care management programs.

  • Based on a national survey of clinicians caring for complex populations, nearly 40 percent of practices had no social workers or RNs. However, when both types of providers did work in a practice, social workers were more likely than RNs to participate in social needs assessment and RNs more likely than social workers to participate in care coordination.
  • The role of the physician changed significantly in assessing social issues and engaging in care coordination activities, depending on whether RNs and social workers are present in the practice.
  • The addition of RN and social worker staff members to practices may enhance care for frail elders. 
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