Promoting Socially Just Healthcare Systems: Social Work’s Contribution to Patient Navigation


  • Patricia Louise Desrosiers Western Kentucky University
  • Gayle Mallinger Western Kentucky University
  • Tonya Bragg-Underwood Western Kentucky University



Patient navigation, health disparities, social work roles, interdisciplinary teams


Patient navigation is an emerging area of healthcare practice that uses an interdisciplinary and integrated care model designed to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes. The authors define patient navigation, delineate the alignment of social work competencies with patient navigator requirements, and argue for a clear social work role and presence as patient navigators in interdisciplinary healthcare delivery. Social workers are well-equipped to carry out a variety of patient navigator responsibilities due to their unique skill of social justice advocacy as a macro-level intervention. Through involvement in patient navigation, social work leaders can promote the development of socially just healthcare systems that respect the dignity and worth of all patients.

Author Biographies

Patricia Louise Desrosiers, Western Kentucky University

Department of Social Work Associate Professor, MSW Program Director, Kentucky Victim Assistance Academy Program Director

Gayle Mallinger, Western Kentucky University

Department of Social Work Assistant Professor

Tonya Bragg-Underwood, Western Kentucky University

Department of Nursing Assistant Professor