Social Workers and Medication: What Responsibilities do They Have?

Whilst social workers frequently work with people who need medication and regular healthcare support, it is important to understand the responsibilities and limitations of these seasoned professionals.

For example, social workers can only prescribe medications for their patients if they have the qualifications and licensing to do so. However, that doesn’t mean they do not play a role in assisting with medicine. In fact, social workers play a key role in the provision, monitoring, and management of their patients’ medications. Here is a look at how they do it.

They collaborate with others

Social workers need to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to ensure the people they support receive the best possible care. They may communicate with their patients’ doctors, nurses, and hospital staff to ensure they receive the best advice, the right dosages, and referrals to appropriate departments. Social workers can inform any doctors and nurses involved about any external issues a patient may have that could prevent or encumber their treatment plan.

This is especially true of social workers who help students in schools and colleges. The list of school social worker job responsibilities is diverse, as Keuka College explains in their helpful guide, but one of their biggest responsibilities is making sure students have access to healthcare and medicinal resources if they’re struggling in school. This is why students in Keuka College’s social work degree program learn about the impact of healthcare access on individuals.

Social workers also need to be aware of the various resources and support systems that are available in their communities. Building this knowledge helps them raise awareness of potentially helpful programs their patients might not know about.

Finally, social workers also collaborate with patients’ families and loved ones as appropriate.

When helping a patient, they may also be called on to help family members better understand a particular situation, any ongoing treatment plans, and the support systems available to them.

By remaining in contact with families, they may also better understand their patients and their needs. For example, in some cases, patients might not be able to speak for themselves or might rely on a guardian for support.

Without collaboration, social workers risk relying on guesswork. When it comes to sensitive medication and healthcare provision, that is a risk that is never worth taking.

They can contribute to treatment plans

Although social workers can’t provide medication or make final prescription decisions, they can work with pharmacists and doctors to help influence the medication process.

For example, social workers must provide the appropriate healthcare professionals with any relevant medical information they are aware of related to their patients. This helps to ensure the patient receives a thorough treatment plan that is tailored to their needs and current situation.

Contributing to treatment plans also involves monitoring patients’ progress throughout their recovery. If a treatment plan is not working as expected, social workers must inform the doctors and nurses involved as quickly as possible to ensure changes take place.

Although social workers never give medicine out themselves, without their insight, some people might struggle to get the help and support they need.

They can assist in rehabilitation and recovery

People who are struggling to recover from addictions and those who want to get clean will often need a great deal of support during their recovery. Social workers are frequently called upon to help people through rehabilitation thanks to their fact-finding skills, empathy, and links to community resources.

Social workers can also help to diagnose the problems a recovering addict might face, which requires working closely with nurses and other healthcare professionals.

If a social worker recognizes a problem or is concerned about the health of a patient during rehabilitation, they can help them find the best professional to support their ongoing recovery. In some cases, they might even be able to help support a transfer or stay in a rehabilitation center. They can also inform healthcare staff and rehab providers of any medication they know their patients are using.

The professionals leading drug rehabilitation facilities often find they need the assistance of social workers to connect effectively with their patients.

Supporting a patient during recovery can also involve keeping recovery clear of potential obstacles, such as potential relapses with certain medications.

For example, should the patient or their family have financial concerns regarding their treatment, the social worker can refer them to appropriate community resources. This applies to medication as well as physical and mental health support.

They can promote drug safety

Although social workers are not pharmacists, they can highlight the virtues of drug safety, recommend resources, and educate people on available help.

Patients and families might have difficulties with treatment plans for various reasons. In the case of substance abuse, for example, social workers can provide key resources for families and loved ones trying to help the patient.

They can also provide support simply by being there to listen to those concerned and offer whatever help they can, whether it is through resources for financial help or tools and apps where appropriate.

In some cases, social workers can help families and patients deal with the repercussions of an intervention and continue to monitor the patient’s progress throughout the process. Again, this is an ideal opportunity for social carers to collaborate with healthcare professionals.

Social workers are crucial in community medicine

Finally, social workers help to keep their communities happy and healthy, often by connecting people to different programs and outreach services.

Social workers can develop public awareness campaigns regarding drug safety, for example. They might also support walk-in clinics and build lists of resources and centers people can attend if they want to discuss a medicinal issue.

A good example of social workers supporting a community via medicine is vaccination campaigns. During the COVID-19 pandemic, social workers have been instrumental in helping impoverished and disadvantaged people find convenient vaccination centers close to their homes.

Social workers are vital in helping to keep people safely medicated and well-informed about the health services in their communities. They might not have the powers of pharmaceuticals behind them, but they’re highly influential in ensuring their patients always get the care they need.


Joan David-Leonhard

Joan David Leonhard is a recent Pharm.D graduate with a strong passion for the pharmaceutical industry and a particular interest in pharmaceutical media and communication. Her brief internship experience includes roles in pharmacy where she built strong patient-pharmacist relationships and a pharmaceutical media internship where she actively contributed to drug information articles, blog posts, social media engagement, and various media projects.
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