“Social work is a profession concerned with helping individuals, families, groups, and communities to enhance their individual and collective well-being. It aims to help people develop their skills and their ability to use their resources and those of the community to resolve problems. Social work is concerned with individual and personal problems but also with broader social issues such as poverty, unemployment, and domestic violence.”
– Canadian Association of Social Workers
Need to know who won the best movie Oscar in 2001 to take the lead in a game of trivia? Or maybe you are a woman of a certain age and need to know who invented air conditioning so you can send them a letter of great appreciation? Perhaps you are pregnant and need to know the top 10 boy and girl names of 2019 so you can select a different name for your child? What do you do? You Google.
Now, what if you are a nurse working in the emergency department of a short term acute care facility and frequent flier “Maxwell” presents for treatment. He is a 35 year old, unfunded, homeless, schizophrenic man with a wound on his left foot that is clearly infected. He needs continued wound care and intravenous antibiotics but not necessarily to be hospitalized. There is no Google for this but there is a social worker.
What if you are the housekeeper assigned to clean the rooms of new mothers and you overhear the 15 year old “child” telling her one day old “daughter” that she is too afraid to take her home because she has no idea what to do with a child. Again, Google is not the answer but thankfully a social worker is nearby.
Imagine passing through the Intensive Care Unit waiting room and seeing the “Smith” family in the same clothes they were in when you first saw them three days ago. Push your imagination to envision that this family has built a makeshift camp in the waiting room that has taken control of the entire space. No other families have even a chair to sit in. Clearly the Smith family is living there and creating an uncomfortable situation for others. You can try Google but the artificial intelligence will not be able to help you. However, a social worker will.
These situations have been made up but they are very real in the daily lives of social workers and they will tell you, Google is never the answer. A social worker is the answer. They are there when all other resources fall short of providing an answer.
The social worker will work with Maxwell to find a safe place for him to go while he finishes his medical care. This solution will take the better part of a week with countless phone calls and conversations along with begging, pleading and bargaining to make it come together. But it will happen because the social worker has determination, patience and focus something Google does not possess.
The social worker will meet with the “child mother” to determine her needs and then develop a responsible discharge plan for both “children”. Supportive comfort and resources will be provided to ease the fears of the new mother. Again, Google did not solve this issue.
The family living in the Intensive Care Waiting room will be wrangled into a section of the area with compassion and firmness while they maintain their vigil for their loved one. A social worker will have done this and not Google.
Social workers are the Google of health care. When there is doubt, concern or just uncertainty a social worker’s phone will ring. Their pager will sound off. Their emails will blow up. Then in a flurry of action, each patient’s need will be addressed. Working several cases at once to ensure all bases are covered to provide a safe and responsible discharge plan. Lunch will be at a desk if at all and bathroom breaks only when absolutely necessary. Work will start early and end late. The regulated documentation will also be completed to adequately communicate to the rest of the interdisciplinary team.
Google may be available 24/7 but a social worker can fit 24/7 into an “8” hour day! Google is no match for a social worker.
Happy Social Worker’s Month