Medical social workers perform their duties in a vast range of health care settings. Consequently, they should adjust their daily practices to be congruent with the needs of their specific facility, its functions, and policy. The work on the psychiatric hospital has its peculiarities and challenges connected to the patient population with various mental illnesses and particular demands and their families requiring a specifically attentive approach.
When describing the patients, it is important to note that people of different ages, races, ethnicities, and economic statuses could be subject to mental disorders, affecting perceptions, reasoning, and behavior patterns. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most widespread mental illnesses, followed by bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders (Beder, 2006). Psychiatric intervention is also required in cases of personality change, manifestations of violence, substance abuse, posttraumatic stress, eating and sleeping disorders.
While psychiatric inpatient units are intended to quickly resolve critical situations eliminating the threat that such patients present for communities or themselves, social workers focus on individual work providing coping strategies. As Beder (2006) notes, medical social workers should rely on principles of empowerment to develop a positive self-perception in a patient, competence, focusing on patients’ strengths, and recovery, helping patients achieve personal goals. This position was described by the National Association for Social Workers (2016) as working from the strength’s perspective. In addition, social workers arrange a safe discharge and educate patients and their family members on applying medications and other treatment practices.
A medical social worker could face challenges in the psychiatric inpatient unit related to peculiar problems of patients and their families and managed care issues. Managed care organizations push social workers to work in restricted environments, often dictating which medications and services might be provided and how long they will be available to patients (Beder, 2006). Another challenge is patients’ vulnerability to stigmatization, causing an increase in readmissions (Beder, 2006). Relatives of individuals with mental illnesses also present a category particularly susceptible to stress.
It is useful to be aware of possible ways to address the stated challenges. When management care issues are majorly considered rigid factors, social workers should resolve or mitigate their clients’ problems with helpful strategies. For example, patients should be assured to follow the prescriptions to avoid hospitalizations in the future and trained to build positive images of themselves (Beder, 2006). Family members, in their turn, should feel that they obtain all the resources they need to cope with problems successfully: information guides, training, acceptable community resources. Thus, adherence to positive and purposeful practices might be the key to resolving challenging issues.
Beder, J. (2006). Social work in the psychiatric unit. In Hospital social work: The interface of medicine and caring (pp. 151-161). Routledge. Web.
National Association for Social Workers. (2016). NASW standards for social work practice in health care settings. Web.