The Job of the Social Worker in Short Term Rehabilitation

A social worker is an integral part of a short term rehabilitation staff. Depending on the size of the rehab facility, there might be a social worker working part time or full time, or there may be more than one to meet the needs of all of the patients.

Social workers in short term rehabilitation

There’s a widely varied understanding of what a social worker is and how she can qualify for a position in a facility. At the base minimum, according to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), the candidate needs a Bachelors degree in social work or similar human services degree, and at least one year of supervised service in a facility working directly with patients.

However, many social workers have an MSW, or Masters in Social Work, or are accredited by social work organizations. They often need these accreidations to move up in their rank, but not for lower tier positions.

Federal regulations require a full time social worker in facilities with more than 120 beds, and even then, the employee does not need a degree.

What does the social worker do?

The social worker has various responsibilities toward the patients in her facility. Here are some of the ways she can help:

  • She’s there to help the patient and his family navigate the complicated and complex world of short term rehabilitation. There are so many decisions to make, often with important outcomes, and the patient generally has no experience or expertise in these matters. When the issues at hand are intense, it’s also harder to make decisions with a clear head, and she can help guide the patient. When the doctors make a diagnosis and recommend treatment, the social worker can walk through the options with the family. And when it’s time for the next step after short term rehabilitation, she can explain all of the choices and help you pick the right one.
  • Patients may be dealing with intense emotions related to their diagnoses and operations. The social worker can help the patient understand and deal with his emotions using various therapeutic modalities, and offer emotional support for coping with their new realities.

How to make the best use of your social worker relationship

The social worker is employed by the facility for the reasons listed above, and patients can make good use of their relationship in various ways.

First, patients should use the services of the social worker as a way to unload, to have someone to speak to. A support system is priceless for someone going through a rough time, and patients don’t always have a family member available. The services of the social worker for patients in a facility are free.

Patients should seek out the social worker when they have questions about their cases or need help making decisions. They should also engage her when there are problems or complaints – the social worker can be a strong voice for the patient even against the institution that employs her – they generally want to provide good services and appreciate knowing when they could do better. She can also be an active advocate in getting patients services they need when they leave after short term rehabilitation or need a spot somewhere else.

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