How Other Professions View Social Work

Yesterday, I was talking to my mom about how the RN case managers at one of my jobs often have to stay several hours after their shift making reports to different insurance companies. My mom, a bedside nurse of over 20 years, scoffed at the idea of RN case managers having stressful jobs and stated, "All they do is talk and sit in front of a computer all day. Their job is so easy." In the past, my mom has made similar comments about social work, stating that all we do is "talk to people", while people like her have to clean bodily fluids and give medication. Hence, my mom feels that MSW salaries are fair when compared to Associates and Bachelor's degrees in nursing.

I feel that despite being a nurse for so long, my mom still lacks understanding of what social workers and RN case managers do in a hospital setting. While I do try to educate her, my mom frequently reminds me that I am a "rookie" and that she has been in the field for 20 years. Out or respect for her work experience - and my sanity - I try not to engage in extended debates with her when she brings up the subject.

However, these conversations with my mom make me wonder about how other medical professions view social work. I know that my RN case manager co-workers value the services we provide, with some even advocating for social worker salary raises because we do the same discharging planning work as they do. But what about bedside nurses, therapists, pharmacists, doctors, and others who don't see what we're doing all day? I realize that there will always be "rivalries" between different professions, but shouldn't we acknowledge the unique contributions of each job in providing care instead of making diminishing statements about one other? I'd definitely like to see my mom work in case management one day and see if she still finds it "easy" afterwards.

In other news, I'm still working on finding a place to live. Haven't found an ideal place yet, but I'm keeping my hopes up!


  1. A lot of people think social work us easy. Unfortunately, we are some of the hardest working, underpaid people with advanced degrees.

  2. I am a medical social worker too, and find this similar dilemma. I sometimes feel as though they have no clue as to what my role is or should be. I think they view me more as a go to girl, or secretary who makes phone calls, gather info to coordinate discharge planning all day. I have my MSW and have worked outside the hospital as a social worker before. I do not mean to devalue the field of nursing or the hard work that they do, but I likely have had more education and more work experience than them when they began their careers, and have to deal with stress on various levels as well in the workplace, along with added responsibilities that go along with meeting the psychosocial needs of patients in addition to ensuring safe discharge planning for patients. We need to find a way to educate them as to what our role is and the service that we can and do provide.

  3. @Vikie: Indeed. I feel that people who call our profession "fluffy" should try to fill in for us one day and see how it really is!

    @Ambrosia: Another dilemma I have at work is the assumption that I have as much medical knowledge as a nurse. Many times, I've had to explain to staff that I deal primarily with psychosocial issues, and that when it comes to medical diagnoses, lab results, and therapy evaluations. Furthermore, I am still getting the hang of the insurance system, and learning (typically by asking the case managers questions) what the different insurances will cover based on diagnoses with which I am unfamiliar. Hence, the staff will typically go to the nurses case managers instead of me when it comes to most discharge planning issues. At times, I do feel my job would be so much easier if I had a nursing background.

    The times I do get to shine are when the issues are primary psychosocial. Typically, I'm able to do my own thing without needing the advise of the nursing staff. Fortunately, I do work somewhere with a staff that supports and respects social workers.

    Whether it be at the university or hospital level, I do think that social workers, nurses, and the hospital system need to be more educated on the role of the social worker. That way, there isn't so much overlap in the workplace.

    Thanks for reading my blog!


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