Medical social work
Medical social work is a sub-discipline of social work, also known as hospital social work. Medical social workers typically work in a hospital, outpatient clinic, community health agency, skilled nursing facility, long-term care facility or hospice. They work with patients and their families in need of psychosocial help. Medical social workers assess the psychosocial functioning of patients and families and intervene as necessary. Interventions may include connecting patients and families to necessary resources and supports in the community like preventative care; providing psychotherapy, supportive counseling, or grief counseling; or helping a patient to expand and strengthen their network of social supports. Role of a medical social worker is to "restore balance in an individual’s personal, family and social life, in order to help that person maintain or recover his/her health and strengthen his/her ability to adapt and reintegrate into society" (Ordre professionnel des travailleurs sociaux du Québec, OPTSQ, 1999). Professionals in this field typically work with other disciplines such as medicine, nursing, physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy.
Medical social workers in Britain and Ireland were originally known as hospital almoners or "lady almoners" until the profession was officially renamed medical social work in the 1960s. In 1895, Mary Stewart became the first lady almoner in Britain with her appointment to the Royal Free Hospital in London for a three-month trial period. Some sources credit Anne Cummins as the "mother of almoners" as she had the ability and the funding to first establish a comprehensive social work service at St Thomas's Hospital in London in 1909.
In 1945, the Institute of Almoners in Britain was formed, which, in 1964, was renamed as the Institute of Medical Social Workers. The Institute was one of the founder organizations of the British Association of Social Workers, which was formed in 1970. In Britain, medical social workers were transferred from the National Health Service (NHS) into local authority Social Services Departments in 1974, and generally became known as hospital social workers.
Dr. Clifford Manshardt an American missionary in 1936 started formal training in social work in India through Dorabji Tata Graduate School of Social Work. The first medical social worker was appointed in 1946 in J.J. Hospital, Bombay. In 1960s scope of medical social workers increased in India.
In Ireland, the origins of medical social work go back to paediatrician Ella Webb, the first physician in Ireland to appoint almoners to work in her dispensary for sick children that she established in the Adelaide Hospital in Dublin, and to Winifred Alcock, the first almoner appointed by Webb in 1918.
The Massachusetts General Hospital was the first American hospital to have professional social workers on site, in the early 1900s. Garnet Pelton, Ida Cannon and Dr. Richard Clarke Cabot were the central figures of the hospital social work. Clarke credited his approach as similar to that of Anne Cummins in London. Cannon started specific training for medical social workers in 1912. The major duties carried out by medical social workers were case management, data collection, follow ups, care coordination, health education, financial assessment and discounting patient medical fees.
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