As part of the multi-professional team, medical social workers provide skilled psychosocial support to people with MS through counselling and practical assistance. They have expertise in understanding the psychological impact of illness on individuals and can use this information to advise hospital policies which relate to the needs of people with MS.
Research has shown that serious illness has a direct impact on the psychological, social, emotional, physical and economic wellbeing of individuals and their families/carers.
The medical social worker can identify with the person, their personality traits, coping skills and ways of dealing with the world prior to the onset of the illness. Input from the social worker is invaluable to the neurology team. It enables the team to adapt their style to meet the individual needs of that person.
The people themselves can benefit from developing an awareness of their own style of coping and can articulate what is important about the illness and its treatment, come to terms with an often complicated hospital system, and get to know those involved in their care. This is in addition to dealing with strong emotional reactions such as denial, fear, anger, and helplessness.
MS can also create many practical and financial problems. Medical social workers intervene with families by addressing both the emotional issues and the practical concerns simultaneously.
The Medical Social Work Service provides privacy and confidentiality to people with MS and their families. Medical social workers access a wide-range of services in both the voluntary and statutory sectors. They have an advocacy role in determining the needs of a person with MS and their family’s needs are highlighted and met. They create links and liaise with members of local communities as well as health and social services.
Medical social work plays an important role for neurology teams, ensuring that the person with MS is viewed not as an individual entity, but as a person in the context of their overall family and community environment.
A person with MS or a family member can access a medical social worker by contacting the Social Worker Department directly in any hospital. Alternatively, they can ask their hospital consultant or a member of the neurology team to make a referral on their behalf.