March is Social Work Month. Chances are over the course of your lifetime, you, a
family member, or a friend have been helped by a social worker.
Social workers have been practicing in healthcare for over 100 years. Nearly all healthcare settings require a licensed social worker, either at the Bachelor’s Level (BSW) or the Master’s Level (MSW). Licensing at the master’s level can be either at the Intermediate Level (LCSW) or the Clinical Level (CSW-PIP). The nursing home guidelines require any facility with more than 120 beds to employ a qualified social worker on a full-time basis but define a social worker as “an individual with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in social work or in a human services field and one year of supervised social work experience”. In South Dakota, codified law states “No person may represent himself as a social worker by using the titles: certified social worker, social worker, social worker associate, or any other title that includes such words unless licensed by the Board of Social Work Examiners.” Therefore, nursing facilities in South Dakota who do not employ a licensed social worker offer Social Service Designees who are supervised by licensed social workers.
Many specialty areas in healthcare offer certification for social workers including hospice and palliative care, oncology, nephrology, gerontology, dialysis, and transplant to name a few. These often require one to have a Master’s degree, a certain number of years of experience and to pass a competency exam. Healthcare settings operating under conditions of participation with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) require a Licensed Master’s Level social worker in places like hospice, home care, rehabilitation, dialysis, and transplant, including both solid organ and bone marrow.
Social workers in these specialty areas are part of an interdisciplinary team of health professionals. Within their scope of practice, they assist with the physical needs of the patient, but they excel in meeting the psychosocial and emotional needs of the patients and families. A critical skill used by social workers is conducting an individualized biopsychosocial assessment that helps identify the emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, and social needs of the patient that are impacting their quality of life and treatment. This information is used by the team to develop an individualized plan of care.
According to the National Association of Social Workers “The essential nature of social work is to find ways to promote the dignity and worth of all people, recognizing the challenges that are experienced from environmental forces.”
We’ve all become very aware of the need for healthcare systems to pay attention to Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JEDI) but social workers have been doing that since the early 1900’s when Jane Adams established Hull House, a settlement house for immigrants, as outlined in their mission. “The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.”
Do you know your institution’s social workers? Are you consulting them to work with patients who have unmet needs that are contributing to re-hospitalizations and emergency room visits? Do patients have the resources needed to be successful in the least restrictive environment of their choice? Do you know what matters most to your patients? Be sure to utilize this important member of the healthcare team and use the month of March to recognize their contributions to the team and the care of your patients. #SocialWorkMonth
For more information on social work month and how to recognize social workers in your life, click here.