Your Healthy Community: A social worker You should know

By Katie Sciba
Feb. 28, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:28 p.m.

Have you hugged your social worker today? March is Social Worker Appreciation month - did you know we had a month? You have some time to make plans to appreciate us. Don't believe what you see on TV.

We aren't what you think. I've never met a social worker who joined our profession who didn't want to help, make a difference or change the world for good. I joke with our nurses that I'm in social work for the money.

There are those who aren't great at what they do in social work just like every profession. And there are great ones, but they are usually quietly going about their work.

I've had the privilege of working with James Felps, licensed bachelor's social worker who is the social worker at Citizens Medical Center on coordinating patient care and resources.

Felps has worked at Citizens since 1996, and patients there benefit greatly from his work. James said that a patient's social situation has a big impact on their healthcare. For example, if a patient can't get the medications he/she needs to manage a disease process, they may have exacerbations of their disease and end up hospitalized.

To serve a patient well, a hospital has to be concerned with the overall well-being of a patient before and after admission into their facility.

Felps works with patients hospital-wide who may be homeless, have a high readmission rate, have suspected abuse or neglect, need home modifications for safety, have no primary care physician or have mental health issues.

Doctors and nurses call on James to help with complex cases.

Felps said he has a great job, and he enjoys the challenges and the opportunities to make a difference in patients' lives. He helps with the Cancer Committee at Citizens to evaluate and improve the cancer care offered to patients.

He helps the palliative care team, and he coordinates with community agencies to help patients meet their needs.

Social workers can be a great health education resource; Felps has been called on to help staff learn about things like advance directives. Social work in health care is very rewarding and challenging.

In the hospital setting, a social worker has limited time with a patient and their family. This requires the social worker to work quickly and efficiently.

There are times when a social worker must work with different cultures, navigate what the wishes are of a patient and their family, and help patients get home with the medical equipment and on-going services like home health care that they need.

The benefit that Citizens gets from having Felps as a hard-working, caring social worker is patient care that includes their social situation. Social workers can be a vital part of good patient care.

Our knowledge and training as professional social workers makes us fit well in the health care field because we understand that physical, emotional, and environmental factors have an effect on the well-being of individuals and communities.

A team approach to health care allows for social workers to take a needed role to advocate for a patient's needs, wellness and justice.

NASW (2005). NASW Standards for social work practice in health care settings. Retrieved from

Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.



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