Social Workers and the Coronavirus Pandemic
Social workers may not be the ones interviewed or the subject of headlines but make no mistake, if it is on the 6:00 pm world news, social workers are already well aware of emerging healthcare crises.
Social Workers have been front and center in working with the victims of the opioid epidemic for a long time. Whether they were comforting the children who have lost parents or parents who have lost children, social workers are there. They know firsthand how raging addiction is destroying families, communities and lives. Much like the opioid epidemic, social workers saw firsthand the early days of the growing health concern that became the Coronavirus pandemic. Recent deaths of older Americans due to Coronavirus “reflect a wider story that those tracking the lethality of this new disease are just beginning to understand. In the fight against COVID-19, the younger fare far better than the old” said William Haseltine, MD recently.
According to Dr. Haseltine, “early research by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that the fatality rate of this new disease differs widely by age. For those confirmed cases between the ages of 10 and 39, only 0.2 percent die. For those 80 or older, the fatality rate is 14.8 percent.”
This vulnerable population makes up a large portion of a social worker’s case load especially those working in the hospitals, clinics, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Dr. Haseltine affirms that “social workers are the ones who will be able to identify those most at risk, who can alert authorities at the first sign of a patient falling ill, and who can pinpoint the patients who are likely to have the most severe and fatal reactions to COVID-19.” Social workers must be armed with the appropriate knowledge, training and equipment needed to protect themselves and to prevent the spread of infections to other patients.
Dr. Haseltine reminds us that “history has taught us how critically important social workers can be in the face of a public health epidemic. They were the messengers who first warned us about the spread of tuberculosis in Victorian slums. They were the ones to first understand and advocate for AIDS patients in the earliest years of the epidemic. Today, they are the ones who can help us push back the boundaries of this epidemic and help prevent it from spreading across our country.”
Social workers go through their day facing these and many other complicated situations. They fight for the rights of individuals to ensure they get the basics of care. To ease broken hearts through a kind word, tight hug and liaisons of communication between patients, families and other healthcare providers. Social workers are making the best of bad situations and they do it every day.
Dig deep enough into any public risk and a social worker is bound to be there. Answering phone bank lines, holding hands, sharing information and providing comfort to those effected. It is not if a social worker is there – it is where they are. Social workers can be relentless, determined and persistent for the good of their clients. This is ultimately for the good of all because when one improves their life situation, they will bring another person up with them. All because a social worker got involved in a public crisis. Let’s get that on the evening news!
– Cathy Massaro, MSW, CCM, ACM-SW
Content & Workforce Manager
Case Management and Utilization Review