The Importance of Social Workers in Healthcare
One group of health professionals touches more lives across all age groups and provides various kinds of support in your lifetime – social workers. In March we celebrated National Social Work Month. It was an opportunity to celebrate social workers’ contributions to patient care and society.
America has over 173,000 social workers. They are found in schools, healthcare, the military, working in nonprofits, transport, prisons, research institutes, and child protection services. And wherever they call home, they make a huge difference. From teaching to research and childcare to mental health services, social workers do the hardest tasks and often without much appreciation. But National Social Workers Month has been an opportunity to recognize, appreciate and celebrate them. Advance has a growing group of social workers who help address many of the medical and non-medical needs of our patients. Their work complements and often completes the work of the patients’ medical teams.
Here’s more about these selfless, amazing professionals and how they can help you.
What health care social workers do
Health care social workers help people in health care settings get the support they need to recover. They work with families, children, pregnant women, seniors, people with disabilities, and anyone who needs help.
Some ways they help include:
- Linking patients and families to housing, foster care, and other supportive services
- Linking patients to financial aid and other resources
- Providing emotional support for patients
- Helping people in humanitarian settings
- Helping with after-discharge care
- Providing home services
How social workers improve health outcomes
Social workers are a vital part of healthcare. They improve healthcare outcomes in several ways, including the following.
- Mental health: Social workers provide about 60% of the mental health services in the US. They serve people with a wide range of mental health concerns including addictions, grief, trauma, parenting issues, and dementia.
- Advocate for patient rights: Social workers help protect patients rights, including their right to information, the right to make decisions concerning their health status, and their right to confidentiality.
- Patient education: Social workers educate patients about their illnesses, symptoms, and treatment strategies. Patient education enhances patient compliance. When patients understand their conditions and the reasoning behind treatments, they are encouraged to comply with prescriptions and other treatments to enhance their well-being. Research shows cancer patients comply more when they are educated on their care.
- Answering questions of family members: Having a sick family member can raise many pressing concerns. While doctors and other medical providers often have more limited time to answer certain questions, social workers can often devote more time to make sure patients’ questions are answered. Social workers not only answer their questions but also encourage the family to continue care.
- Patient care activities: Healthcare social practitioners also provide patient care services such as counseling, connecting patients to community resources, supporting medical provider interventions, conducting health awareness activities, and improving relationships between the medical provider and the patient.
- Leadership and research: Apart from their patient-facing roles, social workers also improve patient care when they lead initiatives and research. Studies show patients benefit when social workers are involved in leadership and research.
It is impossible to mention all the ways social workers improve health care, but it’s even harder to navigate health care without them. Social workers provide selfless service when needed most and deserve to be celebrated this month and every month of the year.
- National Association Social Workers
- 21-1022 Healthcare Social Workers
- Vela Tadic, et al. The role of social workers in interprofessional primary healthcare teams – PMC
- Gold et al. Approaches to patient education: emphasizing the long-term value of compliance and persistence
- Fernsler et al. The whys of patient education
- Gail Steketee, et al. Health outcomes and costs of social work services: a systematic review – PMC