Writer Andrea Sattinger will write about the effect of poor communication skills in the November issue of The Hospitalist.
HOSPITALISTS AND SOCIAL WORKERS
Both sides of the clinical care team discuss the pros and cons of working together
In these … fractious healthcare times when resources are not plentiful and the expectations of patients might be higher, like getting 24-hour care at home, sometimes it might appear that the hospitalist or [another] physician is always the bringer of bad news. A good social worker can work well with the hospitalist in … letting the patient know the realistic expectations of what the system can provide [so that] we’re not in this alone. You know, ‘the world is a nail, the hospitalist is always the hammer’ kind of thing. Social workers can be very helpful in delivering information. … A good social worker can also add some “salve” to the wounds that the patient comes in with.
Some [patients] are borderline functioning or kind of on the precipice already. They come in with this problem and all of a sudden they can’t go back to the situation they were operating in prior. Social workers’ knowledge of the social safety net … is terrific, and they help us in directing what would be the best discharge plan for this patient, [including] knowing what the insurance status is, … what resources they have in place already, what else is available. … [I]t has a lot to do with discharge and recovery and functionality, and [to find out what’s the best place for the patient. They can help us with that.
Perhaps the greatest value social workers provide for all concerned is having the storehouse of knowledge of the available resources of the community. This is probably one of the most vital things to me; they can get a patient into services or programs that I didn’t even know exist. And the resources are very different in Connecticut than … in New York [where I practiced previously]. In New York there are many resources geared toward the Hispanic community, which I haven’t seen so far in Connecticut. But Connecticut has some other great resources; the local area clinic is a fantastic one.
Patients with end-of-life situations are dealt with differently in different states, too, and I wouldn’t have known about all this if it had not been for the social worker with whom I work. I also found out that there is a free program for alcohol rehabilitation in Connecticut; that does not exist in New York. We’ve sent a lot of our patients [to that]; you know they have to be the ones to initiate the call, but if they do, then that’s actually a resource for them. I wasn’t aware of that until I worked with the social workers here.