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Medical Social Work

Essay by   •  December 8, 2010  •  1,499 Words (6 Pages)  •  4,416 Views

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Medical Social Work

Through reading the text book and listening to the information given by the speaker in class, it has become very clear that social workers play a significant role in the medical field. Specifically, social work is of particular importance when working with families where a serious illness has occurred. While the speaker, Jamie, spoke mostly about intervening with families in which the serious illness directly affected a child, the text book gave other examples that also help to illustrate the role of social work in a medical setting. Generally speaking, the text defines social work in health care as "a collaboration with medicine and with public health programs...it intervenes with medicine and related professions in the study, diagnosis, and treatment of illness at the point where social, psychological, and environmental forces impinge on role effectiveness". As the speaker put it, social workers do "everything that is not medical".

While doctors may define illness objectively as a malfunction of the body, social workers understand illness to be the outcome of not only biological but also social, cultural, economic, and psychological issues which "impair role functioning". Any number of problems may cause an individual, member of a family, or member of a community to not wholly fulfill their social role. When this occurs in conjunction with a medical disease, social workers must work with healthcare professionals to treat not only the physical ailment but the psychosocial problems that result from it. For example, if a child becomes sick with leukemia he is no longer able to fulfill his role as a student since he has to be in the hospital for treatment and he can not completely fulfill his role as a sibling because his weakened condition might not allow him to interact with his brothers and sisters the way he normally would. Additionally, his parents are no longer able to fulfill their roles as workers because so much of their time is being spent caring for their child that their dedication to their jobs is lacking, they can't give all of the attention to their other children that they should be giving because of the urgency of care needed for the sick child, they probably feel like they are not being good enough parents to the child who is sick possibly blaming themselves for the illness in the first place, and they most likely are not fulfilling their role of taking care of themselves properly because all of their focus is on their sick child. The siblings of the sick child might find themselves not performing as well in school since they are constantly worrying about their brother and they may even start acting out as a cry for attention from their parents who haven't been paying very much attention to them. All of the social roles of the family are compromised when just one child becomes ill. If it were a parent, grandparent, or other member of the family similar issues would come into play. Social functioning is impaired along with physical functioning. It is the job of the social worker to help the family understand and work through all of the changes that are taking place due to the illness that has come into the family so that the social roles within the family can be restored and the member with the illness can better physically heal.

Social workers provide support for sick individuals and their families by directly working with them, but also by working with many other people and organizations to serve the patients to the best of their abilities. As explained in the text book, "the social worker sometimes holds the process (of the complexity of medicine) together, explaining the personnel and their functions to patients". In addition to working in conjunction with doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, social workers are the middle men between patients and organizations that can help them. For example, if a child is sick with a life threatening illness, a social worker might help them fulfill a lifelong wish through the Make AWish Foundation or set the family up with Supersibs, an organization that helps siblings of kids with life threatening diseases. In addition, social workers act as a liaison between patients and insurance companies so that medical costs can be taken care of with as little stress as possible so that the patient can focus on treatment and not money. Another example of the team that a social worker is a part of is to work with the family members to help them not only cope with the illness but also show them how best to support the family member with the illness. Social workers have to work with the patient as an individual, work with the medical team to be sure each member has a full understanding of the patients psychosocial needs, help the family of the patient through support and knowledge, act as a connection between the patient and whatever community support and programming is available to best hemp him or her, and finally to do research and work on policy-making to ensure continued success for patients in the future. As each patient and family is so completely different, social workers have to

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