Social Workers Help Keep Patients Out Of The Emergency Room

“What’s health care? What’s the purpose of our health care system? What are we trying to accomplish?”


Sometimes in your life you have one of those moments. Reading this article (Homeless Find a Champion in Canada’s Medicine Hat) makes me proud to be a research clinician, and it takes me back to graduate school. I had the exact same questions as Earl in my career. I came across the opportunity to be on a steering committee whose purpose was to “Help homeless youth who are too sick to be on the streets or in regular shelters, but who are not sick enough to be in the hospital.”

The position required attending and constructively participating in the planning, and helping with related special projects, such as interviewing homeless youth about their health needs and their visions. It required a desire to help make positive changes in programs for homeless youth. This is where I felt my unique strengths and talents could be further fostered- contributing and learning how to more positively impact the lives of at-risk youth and effectively make recommendations as to where there could be enhanced agency accountability and effectiveness regarding poverty, unemployment, teen pregnancy, child abuse, violence, and substance abuse; issues that are so common among the nation’s youth. It is experiences like this that helped me gain the tools and experiences to further foster my skills as a social worker. The complex and multi-layered problems of these disadvantaged individuals (who are often to referred to as “super-utilizers”- people with complex problems who frequent emergency rooms for ailments more aptly handled by primary care doctors and social workers) often take up a lot of time and resources that could be given to other patients. I applaud city and county agencies, hospitals, and nonprofits who pool their data together to find a solution; such as the patient care intervention centers that reach out to these individuals and help them find stability and resources.

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