Social Workers can be at risk of vicarious trauma: effective coping strategies One question that is often asked within our profession is ‘What do social workers do?’ (Bowles, et.al 2006: 6). Whereas most people know what doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and dieticians do without having to ask, there does not seem to be this general understanding about the role of a social worker. Most social workers themselves find it hard to articulate this question. This is partly difficult due to the encapsulated variety and complexity of social work in a few phrases. The social work profession is about promoting social change, assisting in problem solving, and guiding people into empowerment and liberation to enhance their well-being. Therefore, why is it so hard Hospital social workers help patients and their families understand a particular illness, work through the emotions of a diagnosis, and provide counselling about the decisions that need to be made (Spencer 2010: 169). Social workers are also essential members of multidisciplinary hospital teams. Working alongside doctors, nurses, and other allied health professionals, social workers inform other health care providers to the social and emotional aspects of a patient’s illness (Whyte 2001: 26). Hospital social workers use case management skills to help patients and their families address and resolve the social, financial and psychological problems related to their health condition. The delivery of the clients health is carried out by a range of professionals all working together as one functioning team. The role of the social worker within a multidisciplinary team involves, evaluating the patient and their support. This is best understood through the use of a psychosocial assessment (ref). Another part of the social worker role is to help patients and families understand their condition and treatment options. This may also include educating patients on the roles of the health care team, on the levels of health care (acute, sub-acute, home care) and advanced directives for example: health directives, EPA. Social workers may also have to facilitate decision making on behalf of patients and families, especially in a time of crisis or making end of life decisions. The social worker role is also advocating for the patient and family needs in different settings, for example, inpatient, outpatient, home and in the community.
Stresses and burnout?
In 1995 Pearlman and Saakvitne defined the concept of vicarious trauma to mean the negative inner experience that a therapist experiences as a result of “empathetic engagement with clients’ trauma material” (Harrison & Westwood, 2009). Figley, used the term secondary traumatic stress (STS) to describe “the cost of caring for others in emotional pain” (Harrison & Westwood, 2009). He contended that both direct and indirect exposure to trauma could result in PTSD symptoms, and he proposed the concept of secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD) to characterize the symptoms that therapists could encounter when doing trauma work (Harrison & Westwood, 2009). As social workers you are at risk of burnout and stress. The nature of social work is strongly client-centred and is normally involved in complex situations. Additionally, in the last few years the change in the nature and practice of social workers are under branches from the political arena. This is why intrinsically self-care is an important factor in a social worker, particularly those who are involved in the health care sector. This form of inner therapy is a good practice aims to ensure that the professional is in good shape mentally and physically. As social workers we have a duty of care to their patients to provide a support, and this is not achievable if their mental and physical health is compromised. Although most social workers are familiar with self-care, considering they preach the concept religiously to clients. However, many find it challenging to...
References: Spencer, M.S., Gunter, K.E. & Palmisano, G. 2010, "Community Health Workers and Their Value to Social Work", Social work, vol. 55, no. 2, pp. 169-80
Whyte, L., Brooker, C., 2001, ‘Working with a multidisciplinary team: In secure psychiatric environments, Journal of Psychocsocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, Proquest Central pp 26
Please join StudyMode to read the full document