March 7, 2019
Tom, Social Worker, gives us a glimpse into the role of the hospital social worker!
The role of the hospital social worker is varied and complex, with each of us bringing our particular skills and strengths to the patient experience. When I introduce myself to a patient I am often asked, ‘What do you do?’ or “Why are you seeing me?’ My answer often starts with ‘I get involved in discharge planning’ but usually I have a specific reason for seeing the patient that I’m able to discuss with them.
Some of the primary duties and interventions which a hospital social worker may be involved in include:
- Housing (long-term care, retirement, group home, shelter, apartment)
- Financial Aid (EI, Sick Benefits, ODSP,WSIB, insurance, equipment)
- Emotional Support (grief, anger, anxiety, depression and mental illness, new diagnosis, parenthood)
- Addiction (counselling and community referral such as Choices for Change)
- Palliative Support to Patients and Family
- Clerical Skills (letter writing, computer skills, statistics)
In our role, social workers must be able to walk into any room and deal with the patient and situation in the moment. To be able to quickly assess and act on the information presented is paramount. Skills such as empathetic listening, knowledge of resources and interventions, and the ability to liaise with staff and community service providers make the role effective.
As a social worker, I often arrange and facilitate family meetings to discuss discharge planning when the discharge is seen as complex or challenging. These meetings allow for the patient, their family and the hospital staff to all hear the same information at the same time, and to each contribute what they can to the patient’s care plan. In this case I work closely with the discharge planner from Home and Community Care. It is not unusual for new information to present itself in these meetings and each piece of information can be relevant to the overall discharge plan. Ideally a discharge date is set with the needed resources in place to support the patient in the community.
While our job can be very busy and hectic at times, it is always interesting. To be a consummate learner and active source of support is rich and rewarding.