America’s health care landscape is undergoing the unprecedented upheaval. It’s obvious that the Affordable Care Act isn’t working as well as President Barack Obama and others hoped, but returning to an unregulated health insurance market is like sentencing millions of Americans to unhealthy, unsafe lives.
When Obama is replaced this coming January, we can expect dozens of unknown changes to our health care system to follow, but one change we can look forward to is an increased reliance on social workers.
Social workers are typically seen as selfless professionals tasked with retrieving children from dangerous homes or helping the disadvantaged find positive opportunities. However, as the American health care system changes, social workers are gaining more and more responsibilities relating to medicine and public health.
What Social Workers Do in Health Care
Social workers are gaining more opportunities within health care, and the reason is simple: There aren’t enough medical professionals to perform all the duties necessary to keep the population healthy.
Currently, we are on the precipice of a devastating nursing crisis, as the average age of nurses creeps higher and more successful nurses retire for good. Therefore, tasks typically assigned to those trained in medicine, such as assisting in the recovery process or teaching patients about health, are beginning to fall elsewhere.
Social workers can perform a variety of services inside health care facilities. Typically, social workers are assigned to individual patients and their families, which gives them the opportunity to learn what type of services are necessary.
Most often, social workers are responsible for assisting patients and families with the often-complex paperwork at health care centers, including admittance and discharge.
Additionally, social workers can help families understand medical options so that they can make an appropriate medical choice for themselves or their loved ones.
Health care environments are tight communities, so social workers tend to develop close relationships with doctors and nurses. Social workers facilitate the assessment of patients, often providing psychological and social profiles that help doctors and nurses form diagnoses and treatment plans. Some social workers can even diagnose mental illnesses themselves, finding necessary psychotherapy for their clients when necessary.
Perhaps most importantly, social workers communicate with medical professionals to improve patients’ quality of care in institutions, to acquire extra resources and funding for underserved medical communities, to coordinate care for patients after they leave facilities, and to enhance the health and quality of life for everyone in a particular area.
As in other fields, including child care and unemployment, social workers are representatives for the common folk within the health care industry, and patients should be pleased that their presence is growing in facilities around the country.
Types of Health Social Work Jobs
Medical social workers (who are also called health care social workers) are uniquely trained to cater to the needs of patients undergoing health care services. Most social worker positions demand advanced degrees, which provide the refined knowledge and skills demanded by the health care industry.
Though baccalaureate social workers (BSWs) can still find paying positions in hospitals and care facilities, they typically claim fewer responsibilities than those with more advanced training. After obtaining an education, social workers must become licensed and certified as usual, but most medical social workers also seek C-SWHC certification, which highlights their interest and focused experience.
With these qualifications, medical social workers can commit to a variety of fields within health care. Most medical social workers find employment at hospitals, which are most affected by the growing shortage of medical staff, but medical social workers can lend their expertise to a variety of other health care facilities, including private health care practices, senior living facilities or nursing homes, hospice care centers, outpatient care centers, and home health services.
At these various locations, social workers can concentrate on particular issues, such as aging, substance abuse, or children and family.
Each field has advantages and disadvantages; for example, social workers involved in hospital administration earn more than those devoted to mental health, but mental health social workers might boast more influence over individual lives.
In fact, working as a medical social worker in general poses benefits and downsides not seen in other social work fields. Medical social workers tend to have difficult client problems, larger caseloads, and a long waiting list for services.
However, medical social workers also earn the most of any social work field, and they have the opportunity to see the most improvement in their clients. Social workers are changing the health care landscape for the better.