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How do social workers and doctors use knowledge in practice? A comparison between two professions

Research project The project examines how knowledge is used in practice by social workers and doctors, as well as social work and medicine students.

In the current programme for evidence-based practice in Sweden, social workers are expected to use knowledge according to the principles underpinning evidence-based medicine. In connection, the Swedish government wants to change the social work education so that it – similar to medical education – prepares the students for an evidence-based practice. A question is whether this comparison between social workers and doctors is adequate? The project studies e.g. what kind of knowledge that is used by the different groups, in which situations different knowledge is used, and how the studied groups differ. .

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2010-09-01 2013-08-31


Finansår , 2009, 2010, 2011

huvudman: Björn Blom, finansiar: FAS, y2009: 1000, y2010: 1000, y2011: 1000,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Sciences

Research area

Social work

Project description

In the current program for evidence-based practice (EBP) in social work in Sweden and other countries, social workers are supposed to use knowledge in compliance with principles that underpins evidence-based medicine (EBM). The starting-point is a critique of social work for having a weak knowledge base. The EBP-program for social work contains a comparison where doctors’ use of knowledge is presented as a professional counterbalance. But these professions and their conditions differ in many fundamental respects (education, target groups, users’ problems, working methods etc.). It is legitimate to ask whether it is adequate to present doctors as the professional model for social workers. This question cannot be sufficiently answered by current research, as there is no systematic comparison of these groups use of knowledge. Consequently it is motivated to study these professions use of knowledge systematically. Moreover, a part of the Swedish EBP-program is about making changes in the social work education – similar to the development within medical schools – as a way for the government to promote an evidence-based practice. Hence it is also motivated to study social work and medical students use of knowledge.
The aim is to analyze and compare how knowledge is used in practice, by social workers and doctors, as well as by students in social work and medicine.
Some specific research questions:
what is regarded as knowledge?, what kind of knowledge is used in practice?, where does knowledge used in practice derive from?, in which situations are different kinds of knowledge used?, how is knowledge use conditioned by different contextual contingencies, such as work organisations?, regarding the questions above, how do the studied groups differ?
Latest update: 2018-06-20