It has been three weeks since the start of my placement at UNC Family Medicine, a full service Family Practice that doubles as a teaching clinic for students from a variety of health-related fields (medicine, pharmacy, nursing, social work, etc.). The setting has been great for me as a social worker because the clinic primarily serves the most underrepresented and underserved patients, many of whom are either uninsured or underinsured. In my short time with the care manager, I have already witnessed many psychosocial issues related to illness or injury that patients and their families struggle through on a daily basis.
My role at Family Medicine is to assist in identifying solutions and alternatives to problems that affect the patient’s accessibility to services and the quality of care they receive. Transitioning from a mental health placement and mindset has meant I’ve had a steep learning curve in terms of understanding medical terminology, healthcare policies, and how to navigate the healthcare setting (referrals, Medicaid/Medicaid questions, etc.). I have, however, been surprised by how well my foundation year placement and classes have prepared me to work with patients who have complex needs. My direct practice coursework has prepared me to administer psychosocial assessments, engage a client in therapeutic work/counseling, and manage to some extent any situations of crisis. At Family Medicine, it is my goal to continue expanding on my knowledge of short term or brief interventions, becoming more efficient and thorough in psychosocial assessments, and learning more about community resources and facilities that may be used in patient treatment plans.
So far medical social work has been everything I’ve expected. I’ve gotten the opportunity to shadow doctors in both an outpatient and inpatient setting, and have even spent a day in the emergency department. This social work specialty area is truly diverse, and no day is ever the same. It is rewarding to see the immediate impact you are able to have on the care the patient receives, and how appreciated you are as part of an interdisciplinary team. In the next few weeks I will begin some supportive group work with patients and their families struggling with chronic disease, and will continue to build my caseload. My coursework in healthcare theory, brief treatment, and addictions should also help in the process, as I become more independent within the healthcare setting. I can already tell that I’m becoming more competent in the patient and social worker relationship, as well as in the area of community health and patient education.