Clinical social workers provide a dynamic assessment of a patient’s health status, personal reactions to illness or injury, and the patient’s and family’s capacity to manage these events. Social workers gather information to develop a plan for helping the patient and family reach the maximum benefit from health care resources.
Social workers help mediate the disruption that illness and treatment bring and help the patient and family mobilize their personal and interpersonal resources.
As patients and families cope with the impact of injury or illness, they can be adversely affected by costs for medical care, pharmaceuticals, necessary living expenses, and other financial or material concerns. Needs such as lodging and meals for family members, transportation to and from the hospital, or payment for special equipment or services after discharge can produce anxiety. Only when patients and families are provided with adequate material and financial support to meet their basic needs, can they benefit fully from health care services.
The expertise of social workers regarding available resources, specific eligibility requirements, and application procedures is central to the helping process. Social workers provide links between the patient/family and community resources and governmental programs to meet their needs by providing information, assisting with referrals for categorical assistance and entitlement programs, connecting families with sources of emergency financial assistance, and assisting with applications for health care and medication coverage.
Social workers are committed to the welfare of those who may have been abused or neglected. Protective services are provided to suspected victims of child abuse, dependent adult abuse, spouse abuse, and other forms of family violence. Family violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, denial of critical care (neglect), emotional/psychological abuse, and financial exploitation.
Hospitals are in a primary position to identify, treat, and protect those who may be victims of abuse and neglect, and social workers serve a central role in this process.
Social workers also provide training to mandatory reporters in the identification of abuse and reporting procedures and work to sensitize other staff and the general public to the characteristics and impact of family violence.