The healthcare system relies heavily on social work. Professionals in this field offer services to people of all ages and backgrounds to address social concerns.
Social workers are present in many different healthcare areas, ensuring that people can get access to the resources they need. They also advocate for laws that reduce health inequalities and increase access to healthcare.
The duties of a social worker
A social worker’s duties depend on their position and field of specialization. Their tasks may include advocating for community resources, formulating legislative proposals and more.
Social workers assist individuals in dealing with struggles including drug abuse, child neglect, grief, mental health issues, domestic violence, joblessness, poverty and homelessness. These professionals evaluate and help individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.
If you are looking to get involved in this field, Cleveland State University has programs that are offered part-time and full-time, so you can seamlessly balance your professional and personal life as you earn your degree. The online advanced standing MSW provides you with the training and education required to practice social work and advocacy. You will also be taught the skills to lead and manage human service organizations with a focus on interprofessional collaboration, teamwork and communication.
Areas where social work intersects with healthcare
Here are some areas where social work interacts with healthcare.
- Mental health treatment
Social work deals with the social and psychological aspects of human behavior, which includes mental health treatment. Various factors can cause changes in a person’s mood, relationships or ability to function at home, school and work.
Mental health treatment applies to those who have experienced instability in various areas of life. It can include supporting depression, anxiety disorders and addiction, or treating individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders such as schizoaffective disorder.
- Substance abuse counseling
Substance abuse counseling is an effective form of therapy often supported by other medical professionals such as physicians and psychiatrists. This type of counseling has a strong focus on the prevention and treatment of addiction.
To successfully participate in this kind of treatment, a person must be willing to come to the sessions willingly and feel comfortable disclosing information.
The social worker’s role in this is often limited to assessing the client’s needs. Still, they can also advocate for those unable to speak up for themselves or make decisions on their behalf.
They also work to educate clients about the consequences of drug use and the treatment options available to them.
- Health education and promotion
Health education and promotion is a core aspect of social work that overlaps healthcare. It is an area of the social sciences that focuses on improving health outcomes for individuals, groups, communities and populations.
It has a major emphasis on research to identify needs for healthcare services. Through education about health behaviors and risk factors for disease prevention to establish healthy lifestyles, people can be self-sustainable with less reliance on medical interventions in adulthood.
Significance of the areas where social work intersects with healthcare
Below, we discuss the significance of the areas where social work overlaps with healthcare.
- Supporting caregivers
Supporting caregivers is a term commonly used to refer to people whose careers involve aiding and caring for people who require assistance. It can be in non-medical support, home health aides or personal assistants or medical-related aid, including private care workers, nursing assistants, close care attendants and caregivers.
The caregiver’s role, typically that of a helping professional, is to care for individuals in need without judgment. A perfect example of this type of career is nursing, in which nurses accept and help patients and their families/caregivers with their daily needs and cope with issues that could arise during their stay in the hospital.
- Reducing costs and improving quality of care
Social workers provide counseling services, while healthcare providers focus on treatment measures such as medications, surgery and diagnostic tests. Through this process, both professions are committed to ensuring that those they serve get the best possible timely access to high-quality services at an affordable price.
In addition to the financial costs, a lack of access can be very costly regarding human suffering. Social workers understand this better than most and can use different tactics for finding resources or connecting patients with appropriate services.
They frequently connect patients with social services, community organizations, government agencies and other healthcare providers who may be able to assist.
- Enhancing patient engagement
Social workers are accountable for providing support, advocacy and community outreach to individuals and their families who face various medical problems. Engaging with individuals and their families requires effective communication skills and the ability to navigate a complex healthcare system.
In addition to providing services and resources that help patients cope with chronic health issues, social workers can also provide patients with information about their treatment options.
In case management for chronically ill patients, social workers can be instrumental in coordinating medical care and connecting individuals to home health providers and other community-based resources. They offer patients an opportunity to actively participate in their healthcare decisions.
- Reducing health disparities
Health inequalities are avoidable differences in health outcomes due to social factors such as income, ethnicity, education, age and gender. These disparities can result in people not having access to adequate healthcare services, including health insurance, and can lead to shorter life spans.
Social workers must work with the healthcare system to provide full access to the necessary benefits to reduce health disparities.
Where the healthcare system is working to prevent the patient from getting full access to these benefits, the social worker will ensure that the patient receives the services.
It is becoming increasingly clear that social work positively affects the health of populations across the globe. As the world becomes more complex and financially complicated, addressing poverty, homelessness and mental health concerns is imperative to protect the global community. When social problems become more prevalent, so do issues in healthcare.