For those who are looking for a healthcare-related role, but who are not keen on working in a frantic hospital setting, social work is an excellent choice. Social work has long been a popular career option, but does it still provide the same dynamic and rewarding environment as in the past? Let’s take a look at what being a social worker today entails and whether it is still worth it.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.
– Edward Everett Hale
The Role(s) of a Social Worker
Social workers come in two main varieties:
· clinical social workers – Clinical social workers are involved in diagnosing patients as well as prescribing pharmaceutical treatments and other interventions
· direct social workers – A direct social worker works with patients to assist them in their day-to-day lives but is not involved in the clinical side of things in the way that their clinical counterparts are
There are numerous similarities between the two roles, but social workers exist in a wide range of different settings, and the specifics of any social worker’s job will depend entirely on which particular setting they work in.
· Many social workers are family social workers. Their job is to identify and intervene in cases of vulnerable or abused children. They also assist adults who require help in providing for and looking after their children properly and will checkup on newly-adopted children to make sure that they are settling into their new homes properly.
· Another common form of social work is a drug addiction counselor. These are professionals who are trained to help patients overcome the physical and psychological components of addiction. Addiction counselors cannot usually prescribe medications or replacement and maintenance therapies, but they can connect patients with the services where these interventions will be available. Many of those who work as addiction counselors are recovering addicts themselves, which enables them to provide a unique perspective on the experience for their clients.
· Social workers are also needed within schools, where they provide numerous services to students. For example, school social workers often act as intermediaries when there are issues between the pupil and the school, and they can help pupils and their parents with any issues that they have relating to a child’s education.
· Care homes for the elderly are another common environment in which social workers are required. working with elderly patients on a long-term basis is often less stressful and emotionally demanding than other forms of social care. That’s not to say that the work is easy, or the other roles are not worth pursuing, but many people who are considering a career in social care want to help other people while avoiding busy settings such as hospitals and emergency rooms.
What Does a Social Worker Do?
The day-to-day work that the social worker does will depend entirely upon the scenario in which they work and the type of patients that they are responsible for. However, there are some aspects to the job that are universal or near-universal.
One of these, for better or for worse, is the need to be proficient with administration and organization. All forms of social work involve a lot of paperwork, and if you are involved in looking after the interests of vulnerable children who may be the victims of abuse, it is essential that all the records you keep are accurate and thorough. Doing paperwork isn’t very exciting, but it is a necessary part of the job and is essential if you are to provide a complete and comprehensive service to clients.
It also goes without saying that social workers will need to be compassionate and resilient. It can be difficult to immerse yourself in some cases, especially those involving children. However, the support of a social worker is dependent upon them being able to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. If you don’t think that you have the emotional resilience to deal with these kinds of cases, then there may well be other roles within social care that are suitable for you. Not every role will involve regularly coming into contact with difficult and emotionally challenging cases, but they are always a possibility, and social workers will need to exercise compassion at all times regardless.
Over the course of their training, social workers will be taught to identify the signs that indicate someone is in need of their help. Depending on the specific field that they work in, this can involve direct interviews with and assessments of patients or it may be more dependent upon referrals from other agencies. Social workers will learn to assess the needs of each individual client and formulate treatment plans for them based on their specific circumstances. In order to be effective, social care needs to be holistic; social workers must consider all aspects of their patient’s life before deciding what the best course of treatment is.
As well as formulating treatment plans for their clients, social workers will also help them to make the transition into a supported lifestyle if necessary. Many people find it difficult to go from a life of complete independence and ability to one where they require the assistance of social workers on a regular basis. Where the social workers are primarily providing physical or psychological care, they often need to help patients and support them through an initial transition period.
Another key component to the work of a social worker is assisting their clients in applying for all of the entitlements and government support that they qualify for. Many of those who come into contact with social services are also people who would qualify for things like food stamps but may have difficulty in applying for them on their own. It can in some cases be literally life-changing for patients to gain access to a dedicated social worker, and the potential for helping other people is enormous, as with many other healthcare roles. In some instances, clients will need a qualified professional to advocate on their behalf and explain the condition and need to assessors when they are claiming for certain entitlements.
What Duties Does a Clinical Social Worker Perform?
There are certain duties that a clinical social worker will take on that a direct social worker will not. In particular, a clinical social worker is much more involved in making initial diagnoses, especially in times of crisis. Clinical social workers are often required to diagnose long-term chronic conditions, particularly regarding mental health.
Another key difference between the two types of social workers is that only clinical social workers are able to prescribe medication, albeit through a doctor. However, a clinical social worker is able to deliver psychological treatments and will work closely with the doctor and other healthcare providers to ensure that their clients are receiving the full range of care that they require.
Clinical social workers are also much more responsible for overseeing patient care and monitoring their progress. A clinical social worker may intervene if they think that a healthcare plan is not delivering results, or that a patient’s needs are changing.
Reasons to Work in Social Care
The field of social care has an enormous amount to offer new workers. There are a lot of different aspects of this industry that attract workers from a wide range of backgrounds.
First and foremost, there is the opportunity to make a significant difference in other people’s lives. With so many different potential roles within the social care field, those who want to work in the industry can choose exactly what kind of scenarios they wish to assist in and the kind of patients that they want to help. If your passion lies with helping children, then working as a family social worker will enable you to potentially save lives and give children born into difficult circumstances the best chance possible.
Similarly, if you have personal experience of issues like drug addiction, then working as an addiction counselor providing services to other recovering addicts can be hugely rewarding work. This also provides many people with an opportunity to turn past negative experiences into something very positive. Lots of those who work as social workers with recovering drug addicts have a history of addiction themselves – it is perhaps the only job where such a history would be considered desirable on a resume.
Lots of people who go into other fields of social work have similar stories of past experience coming into contact with social services. This past experience can have a significant impact on the way in which these people approach their job, often for the better. Lots of people are drawn into the profession precisely because they find that it’s a great way of coming to terms with past experiences.
Social work is also an excellent field in terms of career progression. Like many healthcare-related fields, it has historically been excellent in terms of providing opportunities for women. Also, in a similar fashion to many other health care careers, social workers can choose to advance through the ranks of the profession at their own pace. It is up to you when you begin studying for the next level of qualification and therefore start applying for more senior positions.
Coupled with the ability to study online, and therefore to complete a qualification on a part-time basis, it is possible for women who would otherwise be unable to pursue a qualification to advance their career to now do so. For example, a single mother who has to juggle her career with her parenting responsibilities can study for a masters in social work online and therefore earn a qualification on a part-time basis while continuing to work at another job.
How is Social Work Changing?
The field of social work changed considerably over the last few decades, and continues to evolve at a rapid rate. As with other healthcare fields, many social workers are actively involved in the research that is being used to inform policies and shape the evolution of the industry. If you are someone who enjoys scientific inquiry and research work, then social work has plenty to offer you, regardless of the specific setting that you working.
The research that social workers do is essential for ensuring that the field is continuing to provide both patients and the social workers themselves with the optimal environment for their treatment.
Like all healthcare-related fields, social work is driven by evidence-based policy. This makes the aforementioned research vitally important – without it, we would be flying blind without any idea of how to advance policy and practices.
Social workers are also at the forefront of the challenges that we are facing due to an increasingly elderly society.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
– Proverbs 31:8
As the life expectancy of the average American increases, we find ourselves with a growing number of senior citizens who require care. This is beginning to put significant strain on our health services, as we find that resources are having to be stretched further and further. Furthermore, because the dramatic rise in life expectancy is a relatively new phenomenon, one that has been coupled with an explosion in population levels, we still are still formulating a response to it.
Regardless of the specific field that they work in, social workers will have a unique opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of their clients. The work that social workers do is often vitally important to the people they help. In many cases, the social worker can significantly improve someone’s quality of life. Working as a social worker can undeniably be challenging – it is also one of the most rewarding things that you can do, and social workers commonly report very high levels of job satisfaction.
If you have been looking for a healthcare-related career that will provide you with rewarding work for years to come, you should seriously consider working as a social worker. Anyone can begin studying for their bachelor’s in social work and then progress on to a master’s degree if they so choose. If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in another subject, then you can skip straight to the master’s degree.
Social work involvement for healthcare career