It’s a familiar question to anyone who has worked with a social worker.
How can a social workers’ role change when they have a new patient who might not yet be ready to take on a role in the clinical setting?
But what do social workers actually know about what to teach a patient in therapy?
The New York Times’ David Brooks wrote an exhaustive article about the importance of teaching patients about how they should be treated and why.
“For social workers, this is a crucial role, in part because it’s a highly specialized profession,” he wrote.
“They’re social workers and they know what social workers do.
If a patient doesn’t know what a social-workers-led care plan is, or what it entails, or how to help them get there, they’re not going to know how to get help.
And when they do get help, they can’t figure out how to do it.”
Social workers aren’t the only ones struggling to keep up with the changes.
The Times noted that social workers have been forced to make “tough choices” in recent years as the Affordable Care Act has created more opportunities for the uninsured and those who struggle to pay their bills.
Social workers who work with the uninsured often face challenges, as the Times noted, including:Being too late for patients who’ve been diagnosed with cancer or diabetesThe difficulty of finding the right people to care for themWhen they don’t have the time to make a good impression, social workers can lose their job or even lose their licenseSocial workers have also been under scrutiny for using their time to pursue their own interests, as Brooks reported.
For example, a social psychologist at the University of California, Davis, who works with people with mental health issues, said she was often given more work than other social workers in her field.
“I had to work overtime and I did it very, very efficiently,” said the psychologist, who asked not to be identified.
“We had a very specific task, which was to write a social work plan.
It was not just about making sure that we were helping the patient.”
The Times reported that the psychologist was working with a patient who had been diagnosed and treated for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
She asked that she not be named because she feared reprisals.
When a social employee fails to do the right thing in their clinical setting, Brooks wrote, they “have to ask themselves what they’re missing and where they’re going wrong.”
Social Workers’ Role in the Social Care SystemThe Times’ Brooks said that “a significant percentage of the time, social-worker work can be about the patient’s well-being, not their wellbeing.”
“What does a social therapist do to make sure the patient is doing better?” he asked.
“I mean, you’re in this field, and what does your job look like?
And the answer is, you try to do everything you can to help the patient.
But it doesn’t always work out that way.”
Social-workers also often struggle to get patients to share their feelings about the way they’re treated, as The Times pointed out.
Brooks also wrote that “social-worker psychologists have a duty to be sensitive to the needs of the patients they care for, and to make decisions about what the patient needs.
They must also recognize that when it comes to their patients, the therapist may have to take the position of mediator.”
Brooks cited an example of a patient whose symptoms were improving after a social intervention.
The patient told Brooks that he had been depressed for a long time, but after the social worker talked to him, the patient started feeling better.
Brookes concluded that, as social workers try to stay ahead of the curve, they need to “focus on patient empowerment rather than the patient-centered treatment that they are already familiar with.”
He added: “If we really want to help people to feel empowered, we need to make it as easy as possible for them to do that.
We need to be a lot more inclusive of patients, and let them feel heard.”