The role of the social worker case managerin health care settings is basically to assist individuals and families in obtaining the required resources and navigating different systems of social service. Case management or care coordination is not the responsibility of the social
workers alone, but it is a key aspect in the practice of social work. According to the National Association of Social Workers, social worker case managers are specially trained people who coordinate care.
Case Management Role
A social worker case manager handles many functions. Some of the key functions that they handle are the following: Collaborating with patients, their families and doctors and coordinating a care plan. Providing information as regards treatment plans. Arranging for home health services, transportation, etc., after discharge. Helping patients cope with acute, chronic or terminal illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc. Setting up conferences between patients, families and doctors. Providing information about spiritual services. If such services are requested by patients, the social worker case manager has to make arrangements for obtaining the same. Collecting and providing information as regards financial assistance as well as community programs which may be of great help to patients once they are discharged. Prioritizing cases assigned to them. Reaching out and assessing the urgent needs of patients. Keeping thorough records for each and every case, including details of every call, visits to the patient’s home and referrals. Maintaining the confidentiality of the patients. Analyzing the mental and physical health of the patients. Counseling patient’s individually and also in group settings. Networking with various external agencies to organize support services according to the needs of the patients. Assisting with paperwork involved in Medicare, insurance and Medicaid.
A social worker case manger must have sufficient knowledge and expertise to work with patients form varied ethnic, economic and cultural backgrounds. They must also develop their skills to handle multidimensional symptom management, bereavement, etc. Their job responsibilities also include enhancement of quality of life and promotion of well-being of patients, caregivers and families.
In general, the practice is to assign one social worker to one patient in order to ensure care continuity. The social worker care manager must strive to build a relationship with the patient and his/her support system and assist in the identified areas of need. Typically, most health care settings keep a social worker on-call to meet the urgent requirements of patients and families.
In order to work as a social worker case manager, it is important that an individual possess a bachelor’s or graduate degree in social work. A bachelor’s degree in psychology or sociology is also accepted by some employers as it will ensure that he/she has acquired the knowledge, skill and experience to function as a social worker case manger. Some hospitals may require the prospective candidates for the position of social worker case manger to have a master’s degree in social work. This is because the master’s degree prepares students to perform clinical assessments. Certificates obtained after successfully completing the programs offered by the American Academy of Case Management show potential employers that the holder of the certificate has the knowledge and skill to do the job well. All states require those working as case mangers to hold a relevant certification or license. In most states, it is essential for candidates to have a minimum of 3,000 hours of supervised experience in order to obtain the license.
The National Association of Social Workers defines the core functions of the social worker case manger as follows: Engagement,Assessment,Planning,Coordination,Advocacy,Evaluation, and Disengagement.
For instance, a social worker case manager working in a hospital with an elderly patient may meet the patient and assess the need for providing meals-on-wheels to him/her. The case manger will then make the required phone calls to organize the service for the patient, advocate for restrictions on diet and then follow up to ensure that the service is provided to the patient.
Summarizing, the services of social worker case managers are essential in a number of health care facilities that include clinics, retirement homes, hospitals and rehabilitation centers. In fact, the role of the social worker case manager is crucial for the smooth operation of many health care facilities. Professional organizations like the National Association of Social Workers provide ample opportunities through networking efforts.