VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Do you know me? I'm a Social Worker.
Research by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) revealed that what people think they know about social work is often limited in scope. Contrary to popular belief, a child welfare worker, caseworker, volunteer community worker, or social services employee is not a social worker unless he or she has a degree in social work. The profession of social work has a long tradition with a defined body of knowledge, educational requirements, and a code of ethics to guide practice. Social workers are trained professionals who have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree or a Doctorate and practice in a wide variety of settings such as health care centers, private practice, schools, correctional facilities, public and private agencies, corporations, and all levels of government. Most people don’t know that social workers constitute the largest group of mental health care providers in the United States. There are currently 9,471 social workers or interns working or training at the VA.
Then, what is social work? Well, the NASW defines it as "the professional activity of helping individuals, groups, or communities enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating societal conditions favorable to that goal." Simply stated, social workers try to help people and communities that are in need. Social work in its various forms addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments. Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change.
Social workers are an integral part of the overall VA Palo Alto Health Care System and operate in close concert with all inpatient and outpatient medical, psychiatric, extended care and other specialty services. They provide comprehensive psychosocial assessment and treatment, case management, patient and family education, discharge planning, outreach and linkages between community agencies and hospital programs, and advocacy that aid in developing and sustaining the social skills and social networks essential to maintain the highest level of independent functioning. Social work interventions range from primarily person-focused psychosocial processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These interventions include counseling, clinical social work, group work, social pedagogical work, and family treatment and therapy as well as efforts to help people obtain services and resources in the community.
March is Social Work Month. For 2012, the theme for Social Work Month as designated by the NASW is "social work matters." This theme is so relevant to the work done by the social workers and interns at the VA as we "serve those who served." Do you know the social worker affiliated with your program? If not, with March being Professional Social Work Month, consider getting to know one of the social workers at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.