Firstly, social workers are educated professionals who assist people to meet unmet needs, address problems, and deal with various issues in their lives. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), social workers work in a myriad of workplaces such as clinics, schools, social service agencies, hospitals, group homes, homeless shelters, settlement houses, community organizations, and private practices.
The main purpose of this posting is to bring light to the multifaceted role of the nursing facility social worker. The point of having a social worker in the nursing home setting is to ensure that the ongoing needs of the facility’s multiple residents are being met in a timely manner. In essence, nursing facility social workers contribute to residents’ socio-emotional well-being by working closely with them and their family members.
All nursing homes are required to have a comprehensive social service program to assure that each resident’s social and emotional needs get fulfilled. It is the social worker’s responsibility to assist in the oversight, operation, and staffing of the social services department at the nursing facility. In fact, some larger nursing homes utilize at least two social workers to manage all of the residents on their caseloads.
Social workers in nursing homes are responsible for doing admission assessments on newly admitted residents to determine their needs and make the transition to facility living easier. As soon as newly admitted nursing home residents adjust to life in the facility, the social worker involves them in the care planning process and participates in the plan of care for each resident as a member of the multidisciplinary team.
Nursing facility social workers might also complete tasks such as pre-admission screenings, provision of information on advance directives, do not resuscitate (DNR) forms, social histories, questionnaires, reviews of residents’ rights, appointment scheduling with external healthcare providers, quarterly assessments, progress notes, assistance with monetary matters, and referrals to outside professionals.
In addition to the admissions process, social workers are absolutely integral to residents’ discharge planning in nursing homes. In this sense, the discharge process may simply entail a transfer from one department (e.g., the skilled sub-acute rehabilitation wing of the nursing home) to another area, such as the long term care section of the same facility.
In the majority of other instances, a resident’s discharge involves a transfer to home, the hospital, a homeless shelter or another facility. In these types of discharges, the social worker would carefully assess the needs of the discharging resident and make arrangements to ensure that (s)he or the family is able to obtain certain goods and services that are needed once the discharge takes place.
Once the actual discharge is happening, the nursing facility social worker would assist the resident to acquire goods such as shower chairs, glucose meters, and other types of durable medical equipment (DME). The social worker would also set up important services, such as home health care, pharmacy delivery, outpatient physical therapy, community resources, and/or transportation. Social workers function as advocates.
In general, most nursing facility social workers work a full time schedule that consists of daylight hours. Furthermore, they must occasionally work evenings, weekends and holidays to catch up on their workloads. The vast majority of nursing home social workers work at a desk and have an office, although they must often visit residents and meet with families during care plan meetings.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018) asserts that the employment of healthcare social workers is projected to increase by approximately 20 percent through the year 2026, which is notably faster than the average for all occupations. Nursing home social workers remain in steady demand because of the assistance they provide to aging residents and their families while they adapt to the institutional facility lifestyle.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2018). Social Workers. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-1