What You Don’t Know About Social Workers in Health Care

RUSH social workers debunk the myths about how they help patients heal
Social worker with patient in hospital

Working side by side with physicians and nurses, social workers are instrumental in supporting patients, families, and communities. Research has found that social workers can help reduce emergency room visits, length of hospital stays,and hospital readmission rates. 

"For over a century, social workers have proven essential to promoting health, enhancing hope and improving health care outcomes," said Teresa Moro, LCSW, a health services researcher in social work and community health at RUSH. Most social workers at RUSH have master’s degrees, with many going on to complete two years of additional training to become licensed clinical social workers who can provide mental health counseling in virtually any setting.  

Despite their long history in health care, there is much more to a social worker’s role than is generally known. The Social Work and Community Health Department team debunks some common myths about their work in health care:  

Myth No. 1: Social workers just connect patients to resources

While resource connection is an essential component of a social worker’s responsibility, it is the meaningful connections that make all the difference. Social workers don’t simply supply information; they learn what matters most to patients and and families to help them navigate health care systems in a way  that allows them to live their healthiest lives. Licensed clinical social workers conduct nuanced, comprehensive assessments that maximize a patient’s engagement in their own care.  

Myth No. 2: Social workers are not health care workers

As essential members of the health care team, social workers contribute to improved health for individuals, families, and communities. Social workers partner with patients and their caregivers to help them plan for their future care needs and secure essential resources like social support, housing, food, and transportation. They also provide emotional support, counseling and advocacy — addressing not just their patients’ physical health needs but also the mental, emotional and environmental factors that affect health.  

Myth No. 3: Social workers are needed only for dire situations

Being in the hospital or receiving a scary diagnosis can be life-changing for anyone. Many people can benefit from a check-in to see how they are doing and to make sure they have the tools they need to ensure that their treatment is aligned with their goals. This allows them to focus on their health and recovery.  

Learn more about social work

March is Social Work Month, a time to celebrate the work of social workers. Learn more about social work in health care from the Center for Health and Social Care Integration at RUSH.

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