Published on March 22, 2022

Social Work Not for the Faint of Heart

health care worker reassuring patient

It is my personal belief that social work is a calling – not just a job or profession. A person must have the compassion and internal strength to make it as a social worker. It is not for the faint of heart.

A simple definition of social work according to Merriam-Webster is: Work carried out by trained professionals with the aim of helping people who have social disadvantages or personal problems.

In the health care world, this definition holds true. Social workers fill various roles, depending on where they work. Even with the differences, many social worker duties are similar.

From the emergency room and intensive care, to medical/surgical units or the rehabilitation unit, social workers play a vital role in the care of patients and their families. Some hospital stays are planned, but more often than not a stay in the hospital has caught a patient and their family off guard. Auto accidents, falls, strokes, acts of violence, cancer—many reasons may bring a patient into the social worker’s world.

Social workers are trained to “meet people where they are.” For me, this means keeping things simple. Meet the need. Educate. Inform. Provide a resource. Act on behalf of others. In college, my class watched a video of a gentleman talking about working with people in need. I could not tell you his name, but I can share with you a statement he made that I have never forgotten: Be a human BEING, not a human DOING.

Health care social workers serve as a go-between for medical staff and the patient/family. We act as advocates for patients who may be afraid to ask questions. Personally speaking, I think of myself and other social workers as “fixers.” We are resourceful. We are a voice for the meek. We provide information and resources. Sometimes, we may simply be a person for you to lean on for emotional support or a shoulder to cry on.

My specific role is as a social worker is with North Mississippi Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute. I work as part of a team of professionals who provide physical, occupational and speech therapy after illnesses or injuries that may often be life-threatening. I assess my patients’ needs and try to fill the gaps that medical care is not intended to address.

Social workers provide referrals or information to patients/families about needs they may have. A patient may need help with physical needs (housing, meals, financial assistance). They may need help obtaining assistive equipment such as walkers or wheelchairs. A patient may simply need clothes or shoes.

I hope I have not overly simplified the important role that social workers play in health care. Some days are easy. Most days, especially the past few years, we create new ways to meet the needs of others. On the most basic level, each day is filled with just being a human being.

Most days, especially the past few years, we create new ways to meet the needs of others.