By Dr. Colleen Morley, DNP, RN, CCM, CMAC, CMCN, ACM-RN, FCM

Social Work Month celebrated each March, has a rich history that reflects the evolution and impact of the social work profession. Its roots can be traced back to the 1960s, when the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) began to promote professional recognition for social workers. Officially recognized for the first time in March 1984, Social Work Month was established to honor the contributions of social workers and raise awareness about their vital roles in community well-being and social reform. Each year, this month is marked by events, educational initiatives, and advocacy efforts, focusing on themes that highlight the diverse and significant work of social workers in improving lives and fostering social change. The celebration serves as a reminder of the profession's commitment to advocating for social justice, community support, and the empowerment of individuals and families. Social workers bring an essential blend of clinical expertise and compassionate guidance to healthcare settings, and their role is indispensable in ensuring well-rounded care for patients.

Social worker's training considers the patient's mental, emotional, and social well-being or a wholistic perspective. This broader view ensures that treatment plans are culturally sensitive, emotionally supportive, and logistically feasible for the patient and their family.

Social workers are trained advocates, often serving as the voice for those who may feel unheard in complex medical systems. They help patients and families understand their rights, navigate healthcare options, and make informed decisions. Social workers empower patients to take an active role in their healthcare journey by providing targeted educational resources and facilitating conversations with healthcare providers.
Living with a medical condition, especially a chronic or severe one, often brings emotional and psychological challenges. Social workers are skilled in offering psychosocial support, including counseling and emotional reassurance. This level of support can make a world of difference in a patient's motivation and mental well-being, factors that can significantly impact medical outcomes.

The healthcare landscape can be a maze of treatments, insurance policies, and available services. Social workers excel in resource allocation, helping patients find and utilize services they might have yet to be aware of. Whether connecting a low-income family with financial assistance programs or assisting a patient in find local support groups, their resourcefulness often solves practical problems that can make a medical journey less stressful.

Social workers bring cultural competence to medical case management. In an increasingly diverse society, understanding the cultural nuances can be critical in healthcare. Social workers are trained to be sensitive to cultural differences, making them adept at tailoring interventions that respect the individual’s cultural norms and beliefs.

In celebrating Social Work Month, it is essential to recognize the invaluable contributions that social workers make in case management. Their holistic perspective, advocacy skills, and focus on emotional well-being and resource optimization provide a more comprehensive and humane approach to patient care. So, here's to social workers: making a tangible difference in healthcare, one patient at a time.

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Bio: Dr. Colleen Morley DNP RN CCM CMAC CMCN ACM-RN FCM is the Associate Chief Clinical Operations Officer, Care Continuum for University of Illinois Health System and the current President of the Case Management Society of America National Board of Directors. She has held positions in acute care as Director of Case Management at several acute care facilities and managed care entities in Illinois, overseeing Utilization Review, Case Management and Social Services for over 14 years; piloting quality improvement initiatives focused on readmission reduction, care coordination through better communication and population health management. Her current passion is in the area of improving health literacy. She is the recipient of the CMSA Foundation Practice Improvement Award (2020) and ANA Illinois Practice Improvement Award (2020) for her work in this area. Dr. Morley also received the AAMCN Managed Care Nurse Leader of the Year in 2010 and the CMSA Fellow of Case Management designation in 2022. Her 1st book, “A Practical Guide to Acute Care Case Management”, published by Blue Bayou Press was released in February, 2022. Dr. Morley has over 20 years of nursing experience. Her clinical specialties include Med/Surg, Oncology and Pediatric Nursing. She received her ADN at South Suburban College in South Holland, IL; BSN at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, FL, MSN from Norwich University in Northfield, VT and her DNP at Chamberlain College of Nursing.