Social work and healthcare are highly distinct fields in the conventional sense. While the former is rooted in volunteerism, the latter stems from a scientific approach to human health. However, given the social dimension of both, there are times when the two come together for the common good. Before we get into the specifics of this interdisciplinary collaboration, we must broadly define the two domains to help you understand the dynamics of this collaboration.
What Is Social Work?
In its traditional sense, social work is anything that helps uplift a community of members of that community. Historically, social work has been done voluntarily in a bid to help communities prosper. Over the past century, it has not only transformed itself into an academic discipline, but it has also emerged as a serious profession.
As an academic discipline, social work examines ways and means to help communities evolve. This is of critical importance, for it leads to collective growth in a society. Academic education can prepare workers for non-governmental organizations to uplift certain segments of society. Other applications include working with groups to meet goals of self-sustainability, social accountability, and education.
Various universities across the globe offer degrees in social work, but you can also pursue a masters in social work online. The rise of remote education has made it easy for students to receive a quality education without leaving their home countries. This can be useful for those who aim to step up their social work efforts but require more education.
What Is Healthcare?
Healthcare is an umbrella term for various health-related fields. Various professions are categorized under this term. Physicians, nurses, dentists, etc., deliver services for maintaining and improving health. Throughout history, various approaches have been devised to medicine, all aimed at diagnosing and curing diseases and enhancing health.
Healthcare is a practical discipline, with countless hospitals operating round the clock to provide medical services to patients. Other than that, many small clinics are operating in neighborhoods across the globe to treat illnesses. Furthermore, many medical organizations operate free camps to extend healthcare facilities in remote areas.
While some healthcare details can be found online and in books, only licensed specialists are allowed to treat patients. Every country across the globe has different licensing requirements for healthcare workers. So, if you wish to become a health worker in your home country, you should look up local licensing rules to meet those requirements.
The services rendered by social workers and health workers during the coronavirus pandemic are exemplary. While social workers worked on the survival and protection of communities, health workers treated those infected with the virus.
While both worked within their respective domains, there are possible ways for both to work together. Here is a list of four ways social workers and healthcare workers can collaborate for the public good.
- Identify Gaps In Healthcare Infrastructure
Social workers can help in identifying gaps in the healthcare infrastructure. This can be done through rigorous coordination with health workers. Social workers can contrast new data with their observation of social settings. This can help identify how many patients of a community are admitted to hospitals and for what diseases.
This would help these workers draw patterns of prevalent illnesses in a community and devise strategies to counter those illnesses. An example that must be cited here is that of poliovirus. While health workers administered the polio vaccine and treated polio patients, social workers mapped these areas. They also ran awareness campaigns to encourage people to get their children vaccinated.
- Facilitate Transport To Hospitals
Social workers can help transport patients to hospitals, especially in emergencies. This is particularly true for areas where ambulances are not rapidly available. These ambulances can be equipped with first aid tools to provide immediate relief to patients until they can be shifted to hospitals.
A good example here is that of Abdul Sattar Edhi, who ran his charity organization in Pakistan. The philanthropist ran a chain of ambulances that were usually the first ones to reach any site of an accident or terrorist attack. By transporting the injured to hospitals in time, the man saved countless lives through decades of service to humanity.
- Provide Financial Assistance
Healthcare can be expensive, especially if a family cannot afford the treatment cost for a loved one. Social workers can help here. They can raise funds for patients and family members if the one who’s ill is the sole breadwinner of the family.
There are multiple ways of doing this. They can run campaigns on social media to generate the required funds, or they can approach their contacts for the same. There are numerous examples of this approach, which helps patients and their families as well. With financial issues taken care of, the family can provide the right care to the patient.
- Provide Support with Social Work and Healthcare
While this is somewhat related to the third point, there are some differences here. Diseases as serious as cancer be particularly hard on individuals and families. Social workers can help with managing the experience of life-threatening illnesses. This can include working with caregivers to devise approaches to help the patient cope with issues emerging from their illness. Or they can directly work with patients to help them manage their mental health. They can also help families through various complications during treatment, including financial issues.
While this is not an all-encompassing list, it still gives you an idea about the possible means of inter-disciplinary collaboration of Social Work and Healthcare. Sometimes, individuals from both disciplines could be working within their respective fields and still enable each other’s work. This is done by helping one another achieve their objectives. For social workers, community welfare is the objective that could be achieved by working with health workers. If a social worker enables treatment for an individual or a community, it can help healthcare workers achieve their goals. As the coronavirus pandemic continues to claim more lives, inter-disciplinary collaboration is the way forward. Professionals from both disciplines can work together to prevent further infections and treat those who are already ill.