March Clinical Corner Spotlight – Medical Social Workers

~Miracle Babies could not reach as many NICU families in need without social workers assessing patients, building relationships, and referring them to Miracle Babies~

What do social workers do in a hospital? This is a common question that gets asked of social workers in socials settings or even from new patients who have never experienced working with a social worker before. Medical social work encompasses a wide array of supportive services to children and adults in both pediatric and adult healthcare settings, including outpatient clinics. Medical social workers typically have an advanced degree of a masters degree in social work, and many are also Licensed Clinical Social Workers who have the ability to make a mental health diagnosis and provide therapeutic counseling. In the hospital setting, medical social workers (hereafter referred to as MSWs) are the bridge between the patient, family and the medical professionals. When patients are faced with a difficult diagnosis and complex treatment plans, MSWs help to ensure that the patients and families understand what has been presented and aide in their coping thereafter. MSWs provide psychoeducation for mental health issues, anticipatory guidance for how to cope with chronic illness, grief and loss, and on-going stressors.

MSWs also have a keen awareness for what resources are available in the community and try to assist families in reducing barriers to accessing care and basic needs. Cue Miracle Babies transportation program and diaper drives – MSWs identify families that can benefit from Miracle Babies programs. MSWs are often the (wo-)man behind the curtain (a little Wizard of Oz reference), bolstering families and checking on them regularly in the background while the medical team works their interventions. MSWs also help respond in a crisis to any codes called in the hospital to support any family members while their loved one is whisked away by the medical team. MSWs are also relied upon for assessment regarding concerns for harm to self or others, which is even more imperative post pandemic when suicidal ideation, interpersonal violence, substance abuse and child abuse numbers have risen dramatically. MSWs often get confused for Child Protective Services workers; however, while they make reports to CPS, they do not investigate them. Just like any medical professional, teacher, or daycare provider, MSWs are mandated reporters for any high-risk concerns in order to ensure no harm is occurring to the child. Beyond assessing for risk and safety, so much of what an MSW does is constantly checking in to see how a family is coping, and weaving in psychoeducation about how to cope all the while. MSWs are masters at re-framing a situation and identifying how a patient and family can grow in resilience. MSWs help to reduce stigma for such important things like perinatal mood and anxiety disorders so that mothers dont have to suffer in silence. MSWs are a key to supporting families to get the help they need. We are so very grateful to all the Medical Social Workers for the work they do for patients, families and the medical teams. We are honored to continue to collaborate with such dedicated professionals every day for transportation, care packages, and our new, soon to launch, My Brain My Baby Program. We wish a very Happy Social Work Month to you all!

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