Dr. Cabot states that the essence of medical social services is a compassionate analysis of individuals in their homes, including the study of patient’s mental state, and their bodily and mental environment. The roles of a medical social worker change over time to meet the needs of society. However, Cabot’s definition is still relevant to the primary functions of a medical social worker: a modern biopsychosocial-spiritual model, defining the basis of medical social workers’ roles, requires addressing the behavioral, environmental, social, psychological, and biological aspects of patients’ illnesses.
In a wide range of modern health facilities, medical social workers could perform different roles. I believe that the most inspiring roles involve communicating with patients, their family members, and health practitioners, setting links between patients and social support networks, and helping vulnerable citizens overcome healthcare challenges. I consider that a social worker performing the stated roles could make valuable positive changes in their patients’ lives.
Social workers as communicators directly support patients and families by providing “translation”, consultation, and mediation services. The activity of translating could be helpful for immigrants, and patients with impaired hearing or literacy issues (Gehlert & Browne, 2019). Craig and Muskat (2013), in their research, call this role the “glue”. Organizing and holding family meetings and providing information, professionals ensure that patients and their families properly understand how to follow prescriptions and adjust them to their needs and conditions.
The role of medical social workers in providing psychological support is hard to overestimate. That role could be related to Craig’s and Muskat’s “firefighter,” coping with critical situations, such as suicide attempts (Craig & Muskat, 2013). People from disadvantaged minor communities are still suffering high rates of chronic illness because of irregular access to healthcare services and other social detrimental factors (National Association for Social Workers, 2016). Social support could change patients,’ and their families lives for the better, promoting instant aid, empowerment, and training to overcome psychological issues.
The healthcare system may face a variety of challenges related to shortages in funding, and increasing expenditures for services and medications. As assistants, medical social workers recognize these problems and help their clients mitigate health disparities, find possible solutions to access needed resources, or prevent potential health issues (Marshall et al., 2011). Professionals coordinate the medical staff’s actions and contribute to the well-being of patients and their families, enhancing their resources and environmental support.
The stated roles could directly address problems related to patient care. For example, if an illiterate patient could not understand the practitioner’s prescriptions, a social worker could choose the right words to explain them. A professional could contact psychological support groups if a patient refuses to follow the prescriptions succumbing to depression issues. In addition, as a “challenger”, a medical social worker could help their patients get access to costly medical equipment. Thus, when performing the medical social roles, a professional can resolve a range of issues related to patient care.
Craig, S. L., & Muskat, B. (2013). Bouncers, brokers, and glue: The self-described roles of social workers in urban hospitals. Health Social Work, 38(1), 7–16. Web.
Gehlert, S., & Browne, T. (Eds.). (2019). Social work roles and health-care settings. In Handbook of health social work (3rd., pp. 21-36). Wiley. Web.
Marshall, J. W., Ruth, B. J., Sisco, S., Bethke, C., Piper, T. M., Cohen, M., & Bachman, S. (2011). Social work interest in prevention: A content analysis of the professional literature. Social Work, 56(3), 201–211. Web.
National Association for Social Workers. (2016). NASW standards for social work practice in health care settings. Web.