When we think about who are involved in the delivery of healthcare, doctors and nurses immediately come to mind. However, there are other people working behind the scenes who contribute to the holistic care of patients and their kin. They are none other than medical social workers.

Here is a look at their role in the healthcare system and in providing holistic care.

Assessment and intervention

One of the very first duties of a medical social worker is to perform psychosocial assessments of patients. This includes assessing the financial status of the patient, their social environment and their psychological needs.

Once certain needs or problems have been identified, the medical social worker can then take the necessary steps to intervene and address them. For example, when it comes to patients facing financial difficulties, medical social workers are able to assist them in applying for schemes such as Medifund or to connect them to the appropriate external agencies that are willing to provide help with medical funding.

One example is Jeffery Chua, a social worker who helped construction worker Meng Xiangbo – the sole breadwinner of his family in China who was paralysed waist down due to an accident. Due to these circumstances, Chua saw that he required assistance and brought his case to the attention of the Ministry of Manpower.

Subsequently, this allowed the injured Meng to receive monetary compensation and air tickets to return to China. Therefore, medical social workers play a role in helping to reduce the burden of patients, such as the expensive costs involved in receiving medical treatment.

Aside from financial issues, patients who are down with major illnesses might also face difficulties in coping with their conditions, emotionally and mentally. Thus, medical social workers also play the important role of counselors to these patients, taking care of their emotional and mental well-being.

Coordination of post-discharge plans

After patients have been discharged, they may still require medical treatment and attention at home. As such, medical social workers would help with coordinating these patients’ post-discharge plans.

This includes making plans on the equipment and services needed and educating families on the usage of equipment. Social workers may also connect them to community medical centres who have the relevant personnel to attend to these patients’ needs.

Hence, medical social workers help to ensure that patients receive proper care and treatment even beyond the confines of the hospital.

Support for families

Beyond helping patients to cope with their conditions, medical social workers also extend their help to the families of patients. This is accomplished through educating the family about what to expect when someone has a major illness and how to approach such situations within the family.

When patients pass away, medical social workers also provide support to grieving families. An example of such a medical social worker is Crystal Lim who works with kidney failure and transplant patients. When some of these patients have passed on, Lim helps their families by supporting them in the grieving process and assisting them in dealing with the trauma of loss.

Such support provided by medical social workers has been greatly appreciated by grieving families.

All in all, medical social workers play an important role in providing holistic care to patients and their kin by assisting them in overcoming their problems and providing them with support through various means. Despite the vastly different nature of their jobs in comparison to doctors and nurses, the efforts and contributions of medical social workers should also be acknowledged as well as recognising their importance within the healthcare system. MIMS

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