To serve as a social worker means to serve in a variety of roles – usually on a daily basis. That’s certainly true of social workers who serve in inpatient rehabilitation facilities.
With March being National Social Work Month, it’s a great time to take a closer look at the many ways the nation’s more than 600,000 social workers serve the healthcare industry. And in an inpatient rehabilitation setting, where patients are recovering from disabling diseases, injuries, and chronic illnesses, social workers are an integral part of the medical team.
Social Workers in Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities
Social workers are key contributors in the rehabilitation and recovery of patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Their roles may include:
- The initial screening and evaluation of patients and families.
- Helping patients and family members deal with the many aspects of the patient’s condition – social, financial, and emotional.
- Helping patients and families understand their illnesses and treatment options.
- Acting as an advocate for patients and families – including as an advocate for the patient’s health care rights.
- Aid and expedite decision-making on behalf of patients and their families.
- Educating patients on the roles of other members on their recovery team – including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, etc.
- Crisis intervention
- Providing a comprehensive psychosocial assessment of patients.
- Educating patients and families about post-hospital care.
- Helping patients adjust to their inpatient rehab setting.
- Coordinating patient discharge and continuity of care following discharge.
Serving as a Patient/Family Advocate
As mentioned, one of the key roles that social workers serve in an inpatient rehabilitation setting is as a patient advocate. The importance of helping the patient understand and adjust to hospital procedures, understand medical plans, and assisting the patient’s family with financial planning is crucial.
The social worker’s role as an advocate also includes maintaining open lines of communication between the patient, family, and other members of the health care team. He or she also will learn each family’s dynamics while understanding its strengths – and encouraging the use of these strengths.
Indeed, the pressure on families as a loved one moves through the health care system can be intense and there’s a lot to learn in a short time. Social workers ease this pressure on all levels, whether it regards the plan of treatment or financial needs.
Studies have shown that the more informed the patient, the better healthcare decisions he or she will make during their treatment and post-recovery. In turn, this results in better long-term health outcomes while also saving money.
While some healthcare facilities will have trained volunteers serving as patient advocates, social workers are more qualified to serve in an advocate role based on their education, training, and experience. At Ernest Health Systems, we believe that social workers are an essential part of a patient’s recovery team.