There’s a widespread misconception about the role of social workers in America. Widely used reference materials aren’t helping matters either. Dictionary.com and Wikipedia both refer to “linking clients with agencies and programs that will meet their psychosocial needs,” when discussing the role of the modern social worker.
Now consider a recent conversation with a real world social worker, at a local hospital. The topic of this conversation was a patient who wasn’t really any better after a long stay.
Author’s note: this is the condensed version… the actual communication spanned several different conversations over the course of a day.
Social worker: “Well, we’re going to release (the patient) today.”
Family member: “Release… to where?”
Social worker: “Well, home… you can take (the patient) home.”
Family member: “Um… well, are you sure? That’s not what I thought the doctor said. I thought (the patient) was going to be placed in an assisted living facility – short term – for some kind of further treatment.”
Social worker: “I think you should bring (the patient) home and threaten more hospitalization if (the patient) doesn’t shape up.”
Family member: “But the doctor….”
Social worker: “Yeah, we discussed assisted living. I suppose you could take (the patient) to one after we release….”
Family member: “Anyplace in particular?”
Social worker: “There are a bunch up by where you live. Call around.”
Where do I begin?
A doctor makes a psychiatric/medical diagnosis, treats the illness with lots of medication and ECT, and a social worker decides the patient “just needs to shape up?” So we went through all this trouble and all that was really necessary was a good slap? Then when a social worker ceedes authority to the doctor, the best assistance she can come up with is “call around.” Is this what they meant by “linking clients with agencies and programs that will meet their psychosocial needs?”
If all you need to be a social worker is a nack for pop-psychology, a willingness to ignore medical advice, and a storehouse of useless information/advice… well heck, I’ve found my calling.