Giving Compass’ Take:
• Richard Gunderman explains why overloaded medical social workers leaving the profession poses a problem for hospitals and patients who benefit from their work.
• Why are medical social workers being overburdened? How can this trend be reversed to benefit individuals and society?
• Find out why the United States needs to improve its long-term care industry.
Medical social workers help to ensure that the psychological and social needs, or what we in the field call the psychosocial needs, of patients and families get attended to, and that all aspects of the patient’s care – inpatient, rehabilitation, outpatient, in-home and so on – are coordinated. They ensure that medicine and life work well together. For example, a patient coping with a diagnosis of cancer or dementia may need help with services as diverse as insurance, in-home health services, psychotherapy and grief counseling.
Though employing medical social workers costs hospitals and healthcare organizations money, there is evidence that having social workers on staff lowers overall health care costs.
Even though medical social work represents a rewarding career, many social workers are leaving their jobs.
This is a big problem. To do their jobs well, medical social workers need to know other health professionals, hospitals, social services, and patients and families well. Each time a medical social worker is lost, it takes months or even years to get a replacement up to speed. In the meantime, patients and families can end up falling through the cracks.
So why are medical social workers leaving their jobs? One of the biggest problems, according to Ali, a 28-year-old pediatric cancer social worker, is large caseloads. “When each social worker is responsible for too many patients,” she says, “it becomes impossible to give each patient and family the level of care they need. Because you are stretched so thin, you end up tending only to the patients and families with the most urgent needs. You are forced to choose who not to care for, and that feels like failure.”
Read the full article about medical social workers by Richard Gunderman at The Conversation.
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