The invasion of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has impacted humanity on a global scale and has forced communities large and small to take unprecedented measures to stop its spread. Not only are we battling a public health crisis, but non-essential businesses have been forced to close their doors leading to an uncertain future for business owners and for their employees.
People are having to decide between going to work for a paycheck or risking their health and the health of those they love. There is no facet of society that will emerge from this challenging time unscathed, whether it is physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or socially. As we contemplate and hope for the quick return to a new normal way of life, let’s take a look at how social workers are playing a vital role in helping society deal with the challenges that have developed due to COVID-19 and how they can work to ease the transition to life post-pandemic.
An MSW Prepares Graduates for Crisis Situations
With the global landscape changing by the day as we respond to COVID-19, the emerging needs of communities and individuals continue to change. Social workers, especially those who have earned a master of social work (MSW), are uniquely equipped to serve as liaisons between their populations’ needs and potential solutions. An MSW takes students through rigorous training including methods of intervention, ethics, and social work theory. The field placement also prepares future social workers to advocate for their clients’ needs and to improve their situation through comprehensive case management in tandem with community resources.
While social workers can provide counseling services for mental and emotional wellbeing, they also prioritize improving external factors for their clients. Advocating for their patients and getting them connected to external resources is one of their many superpowers.
One Social Worker’s Holistic Approach to Helping During the COVID-19 Crisis
Social workers are uniquely equipped to help individuals and communities work through and rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, we talked with Fatima, who has worked as a social worker for five years and is well-versed in the community resources available to those she serves. When the COVID-19 crisis hit and quarantine began, she knew that she wouldn’t be able to meet with her patients in person for an unpredictable length of time. As a social worker, Fatima provides counseling services to her clients and helps them improve their external circumstances.
Rather than passively waiting until her clients reached out to her for help and a plan, Fatima’s training through her MSW launched her into action. She took initiative and began calling her clients to check-in. Even though she was not being paid for this outreach, she knows the effect isolation can have on the individuals she serves.
One of Fatima’s clients was suffering from extreme anxiety after losing her job due to the pandemic. She was not sure how she would feed her children while out of work. Fatima immediately set her client up for a free tele-health counseling session through Medicaid. During the appointment, they practiced grounding exercises for anxiety and then created an action plan that involved signing up to receive unemployment benefits. Fatima also connected her client with a food pantry that is feeding families who are out of work due to the crisis.
Without support, her client was isolated and overwhelmed with fear. As a trained social worker, Fatima views her clients through a holistic lens that considers the mental health of her patients, and the overall wellbeing of the families. Fatima serves as a counselor, but also as a patient advocate to ensure her clients have access to all the resources available to them.
Social Workers Serve as Liaisons Between Patients and Families
Like Fatima, we also asked Lorenzo how he is using the training he received through his MSW to make a difference during the pandemic. Lorenzo is a social worker in a hospital and provides services that help patients navigate their illness and the transition from hospitalization to recovery. While nurses and doctors focus on and treat a patient’s physical ailments, a social worker views the patient through a holistic lens that considers their mental and physical wellbeing and helps build a supportive environment that nurtures the patient such as family, friends, or caregivers.
As a hospital worker, Lorenzo was thrust into action when the COVID-19 crisis hit. With everyone navigating an unprecedented emergency, Lorenzo is serving as the glue between patients and their families. Under normal circumstances, nurses often help keep families apprised of their loved one’s medical status, but now Lorenzo is filling in those gaps while nurses are pulled into different roles. Not only is Lorenzo keeping families informed, but he is also educating patients and their families about COVID-19. Furthermore, he provides counseling services to patients and family members for anxiety and other mental health challenges, ensures his patients have medical coverage, and helps his clients safely transition home.
In both Fatima and Lorenzo’s stories, it’s easy to see that social workers are serving in a variety of unique ways during COVID-19. While they provide counseling services and address mental wellbeing, they also consider the patient’s social, financial, physical, and familial situation. From this holistic perspective, social workers advocate for their clients to help ensure their basic needs are met.
Social Workers Can Help the World Recover from COVID-19
Undoubtedly, the fallout from the COVID-19 public health crisis is going to affect the days, months, and perhaps even years to come. The demand for social workers before this crisis was increasing and now will only continue to grow as new needs emerge, post-pandemic. Additional social worker professionals will be needed for mental health counseling, especially given the rising suicide rates and increasing levels of PTSD among first responders and medical professionals. Recently, a Washington, DC hospital began offering free 30-minute emergency counseling sessions for medical professionals during the crisis. This is one of the many new ways social work professionals can step up to fill a growing need.
Social workers will also be called upon to help communities access resources, such as food, money to cover bills, and new employment opportunities, when the country re-opens. These important professionals will play a vital role in helping our country recover while working toward our new way of life.
Become Part of the Solution with an MSW
Social workers receive the training they need to advocate for the populations they serve and connect their clients to the resources available to them. If you have considered becoming one of these important patient advocates, a master of social work degree will provide you with the vital knowledge and hands-on skills required to meet the everyday needs of individuals and communities and to step-up as an important first-line defense in future crisis situations, whether on a small or global scale.
If you are ready to step into your future as a helping professional, we invite you to request more information about the Master of Social Work degree at Baylor University. We’re excited to hear from you and to encourage you on your journey to making a lasting difference in the communities you serve.