Social Work Month is celebrated each March across the United States. The goal of this month of observance and recognition is to explore the role of social workers in our society and the contributions they make in the communities in which they serve. Social work is an integral part of the multidisciplinary team, as their main objective is to protect vulnerable people and families, while enhancing their quality of life. 

A Brief History of Social Work in the United States 

Social work as a profession has been around for  more than a century in the United States, with the first course work being offered at Columbia University in 1898. The pioneering professionals working in the field were able to identify social injustices, areas of abuse and neglect, and identify ways to make a difference. One step at a time, social workers have been integral to sparking many noteworthy changes in our society. Some of these protections include the advancement of civil rights, workplace benefits, the humane treatment of people with developmental delays and mental health disorders, the implementation of Medicaid and Medicare, prevention of childhood and elder abuse and ending the stigma for certain disease processes. Some notable people throughout history who have committed their careers to advancing the cause of social work include Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Harry Hopkins, Dorothy Height and Jeanette Rankin. 

Social Work Defined

Social work is often referred to as, “the helping profession.” This is because the primary goal of the profession is the enhancement of well-being through helping those in need of assistance. The tasks social workers are involved in include but are not limited to: teaching effective communication skills, caring discipline of children, prevention of violence, budgeting  advice and proper navigation of the healthcare system. 

Enhancing well-being is met by assisting the individual or family in their personal lives and focusing on environmental needs to live a safe, fulfilled life. The reason social work focuses on both the individual or family and their external environment is that external factors have an impact on a person’s situation and outlook. It is important for social workers to examine and assess each component of a person or family’s life individually to allow for the best possible outcome.

A Day in the Life of a Social Worker

Social workers work in a variety of settings, including correctional facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, mental health facilities, schools and many more locations. Social workers may work, own, or sit on decision-making boards for both private and charitable organizations. 

The daily tasks completed by a social worker may vary as each individual and situation is unique. The main responsibilities of social workers are assessment of an individual or family, creating a plan to address the issue at hand, providing directly or referring to needed resources and evaluation of progress towards goals. While completing this task, social workers will also serve an advocate for the child or family.

Are you interested in pursuing a career in social work? Connect with Medix Healthcare recruiters today to learn more about the ways you can make a positive impact in this role! 

About the Author

Dr. Scarlet Spain MedixDr. Scarlet Spain is an Assistant Professor at Valparaiso University and a practicing Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner. She has been a Healthcare Consultant with the Medix team since May 2020, supporting our Occupational Health efforts.