Development of Social Work in Health Care

1. The pioneer of medical social work, Ida Cannon, was hired on at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1907. A major goal Cannon’s was to expand the role a social worker may have with the psychological and social problems that are the cause or effect of illness (DiNitto & McNeece 194).
2. Social workers must be able to adapt to a forever changing field. Depending on the political and professional pressures and circumstances, different approaches may be used. For example, the Great Depression brought on social interventions to help combat poverty. On the other hand, social workers in the 1950’s used psychological interventions more to help returning World War II veterans suffering from PTSD.
3. As medical technology advances, so does the cost of health care. Unfortunately, not everyone has health insurance and people of color are more likely to experience this. On the macro practice scale, a social worker may work with medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, psychologists, pharmacists, etc. to develop health care programs more suited for at risk populations or they could use political advocacy to give patients a voice. Currently, the leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States is medical bills ( DiNitto & McNeece 200).
4. In the 1980’s, Congress added diagnosis-related groups in Medicare resulting in the premature discharge of patients. This led to a growth of subacute care agencies like home health care, nursing homes, and hospices. Not only that, but it gave social workers a much bigger role in discharge planning to help with cost/efficiency issues of chronic disease. Hospital social workers assess the biopsychosocial needs of patients and their families in order to provide the safest transition to subacute/homecare.


DiNitto, Diana M., and Aaron McNeece. Social Work Issues and Opportunities In a Challenging Profession. Third ed. Chicago: Lyceum, 2007. Print.

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