Medical social workers are a rough and tumble talented crew of people. We learn a majority of our skills on the job, but have a backbone of knowledge in caring for others in different capacities. Below are some reasons why going to a social worker with medical experience is an added bonus.
Medical Social Workers are fearless.
This is not me tooting my own horn, this is just a necessary way of being in medicine. In medicine, you see some sh*t on a daily basis. You meet with people sometimes at their absolute worst and most stripped down. I’ve seen so many things I can’t unsee and been witness to, both extraordinarily heartening moments, and also the most traumatic things that life has to offer. I can guarantee you, I will not be shocked by anything you say, but I can absolutely meet you in that moment and rise to any occasion because that is what I have been trained for. We will bear those wounds together.
Medications and conditions, yup we know those.
Don’t worry, you can just tell me what medications you might be prescribed, and what conditions you have been diagnosed with. I can take it from there. Yes, I know what Guillain-Barré syndrome is. I also know about the standard of care for someone with advanced stage prostate cancer. Goals of care conversations and recovery planning? Yup, second nature here. While there is a lot about medicine I don’t know (I am not a physician), I am fluent in medicalese.
Medical social workers can help with long term care planning.
I have had countless conversations with families about how to best set up care for a loved one. There is a lot that goes into these conversations and one has to know what someone will need throughout the course of their life. It is also important that one understands their community resources as well. And that brings me to our next perk!
Medical social workers have community knowledge.
I know my way around my community resources. If I can’t provide it for you, I know who can. If I don’t know, I will make it my business to know. I have made many connections in the central Virginia community and provided countless referrals for many community resources.
We’re trained in crisis intervention.
I am trained to be cool and collected with any crisis and will confidently take the lead when you are looking to get grounded and get the rug back under you. I have experiences with individuals, couples and family crises as these are all demanded in the medical setting. Crisis response ranges from responding to support family during a code page to assessing suicidality of a patient. I have had plenty of experience with the full range.
We can help you talk with your family.
I can help you speak with family about difficult topics. I’ve spent the past 4 years assisting cancer patients and families with very challenging conversations. I can partner with you in discussing a new diagnosis with family, planning for end of life or long-term care, or communicating to family what you need when you are feeling emotionally depleted.
We also can provide caregiver support.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and are feeling the burden of that stress, I have plenty of experience working with people placed in that role. You are often having to pick up chores and roles that are unfamiliar and feeling those senses of loss. Determining how to best care for yourself in this role is challenging and quite often benefits from having an outside party to help affirm you and hold you accountable to your own self-care.
We speak grief and loss.
Grief and loss doesn’t just mean distress from losing a loved one. There are many other griefs and losses that we all face, and I speak those languages and can help frame this experience in a normalizing and validating way.
Pathology and Validation
I have seen the best medicine has to offer, and also the dirty underbelly of how medicine is practiced. Because of these experiences, I am not quick to frame symptoms as pathology, but if we do talk diagnoses, I discuss this with intention to help provide psychoeducation or validation of your experience.
In short, don’t underestimate the value of working with a therapist who has a medical background. These skills translate fundamentally well into the therapeutic space and can be a boon for you and your family. Remember to shop around for the therapist that best fits your needs and personality. More than anything, it is most important to find someone who feels right for you.