Medical Social Work

My foundation field placement is at UNC Family Medicine Center in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC Health Care. UNC Family Medicine is a primary care clinic where physicians and support staff serve over 17,000 patients. I am part of the Care Management team consisting of one other MSW intern and two full-time clinical social workers. The culture at UNC Family Medicine is such that Care Management is not only appreciated but almost depended on for providing the best care possible for our patients.

The Care Management team conducts brief supportive therapy, provides referrals, assists with financial aid applications, frequently checks in on patients, supports transitions from hospital admission back home, consults with the home visiting medical team, and generally resources for holistic care. Most days, I make phone calls to patients, see patients in clinic, debrief with my supervisors and attend planning and consult meetings. Everyday I experience new and interesting cases that challenge me and expand my knowledge related to not only medical care management but social work as a whole.

Fortunately for medical social work, the health care and health insurance industries are moving toward a preventative model, specifically in terms of preventing hospital readmissions. Social workers are a huge part of this effort as we work to secure financial, social, and mental health stability that are all integral to good health. Further, we advocate for patients when collaborating with health care providers and other community resources. This care management piece has been shown to reduce overall health care cost to health insurance companies and health care systems and is therefore a rapidly growing field. Additionally, due to the Affordable Care Act, more low income, under-served populations are beginning to use the health care system more heavily and therefore can greatly benefit from care management.

UNC School of Social Work has recognized this expansion of the medical social work field and is now gearing up to launch the UNC-PrimeCare program centering on preparing MSW students to work in the interdisciplinary medical field in a primary care setting with a focus on adolescent and young adult mental health. This program will work with medical and primary care field placement agencies such as UNC Family Medicine to collaborate on this project. This is such an exciting time for medical social work and UNC School of Social Work!

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About Hannah Welch

I and almost my entire family are from Gastonia, NC. I earned my Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology from UNC Chapel Hill in 2012 and spent a year as a special needs Kindergarten Teacher Assistant before coming back to get my MSW. I am in the Triangle Distance Education cohort and have a Research Assistantship that has afforded me lots of learning and professional development opportunities. I love the color purple, them Tar Heel boys and the beautiful Carolina campus, and try to continuously live out a quote that was given to me by a friend many years ago: "if possible, nothing without joy."
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