The primary aim of every profession is to enhance human well-being in some way. However, social workers take this duty to a higher level. These professionals focus on oppressed, vulnerable and impvoerished individuals, all of which are classes of people that are often neglected by society. The main group of people who draw these individuals closer and find ways to help are social workers.
Unfortunately, these workers experienced an unprecedented obstacle in 2020 because of the pandemic. In December 2019, Chinese authorities told the World Health Organization about an unknown illness emerging from Wuhan City in the Hubei province. The disease, later named COVID-19, severely impacted every facet of society. As of July 6, 2022, WHO reported more than 546 million confirmed cases and 6.3 million deaths globally. Doctors, nurses, lab technicians, paramedics, and social workers were at the forefront of the battle. Their mental health was damaged as they were overstretched beyond capacity. Because their job requires intensive training, there was no way to quickly recruit more qualified workers to fill certain positions. This meant that the few professionals available handled all of the cases.
Here is a look at the impact of the pandemic on healthcare professionals, particularly social workers.
Social workers were overstretched during the pandemic, taking on longer hours because they needed to help more people. Likewise, in a post-pandemic society, the effects of the outbreak have been far-reaching. Mental health cases arose from those who struggled with isolation in lockdowns or were stuck in an unsafe or unhealthy environment. Young children had to learn to adapt to staying at home and then re-learn how to socialize outside of their house. Social workers deal with all these cases, and this meant they were unable to spend as much time with their families as usual. If more social workers had been available, this situation could have been alleviated.
Experts have predicted that the future of this career is bright, with social work statistics showing increased demand to manage the looming shortage. Those who take advantage of the opportunity to switch careers can benefit from joining this rewarding profession in the next few years. Florida State University’s online MSW program offers a supportive environment to establish a career network of students who are passionate about their job. Their program is available to students across the United States and features two field placements to accompany your learning journey, enhance your skills with valuable experience, and ensure you are well prepared for your career in social work.
As with most professions, social workers in private practice saw fewer clients during the pandemic, with restrictions on people’s movement making visits challenging. Many of those who sought help did so online, but some people who need the services of social workers lack the resources to arrange video calls. As people took the cautious steps needed to avoid contracting the virus, some social workers were sidelined. This meant that new solutions and adaptations had to be made to reach their clients. Those who adapted had to find solutions to ensure their patients received the timely, safe, and quality care that they deserve.
Telemedicine and remote working saw an unprecedented rise in popularity in 2020 due to lockdowns. The new reality saw offices close their doors, while the manufacturing industry was temporarily grounded and students learned from home. As a result, every profession had to adjust.
Social workers whose job description required them to interact with others had to adhere to strict public health guidelines, like the use of personal protective equipment. Others worked with patients from home via telephone and video appointments. Some social workers in remote communities found this particularly challenging. It became clear that better training and greater access to technology was needed for social workers to help the public.
However, there were benefits to the switch. A lot of these appointments were for people with mental health issues. Those suffering with anxiety or depression found telephone and video call appointments easier to attend and less stressful to manage. The forced trip and face-to-face contact an in-person appointment warranted could worsen their symptoms and make it a testing experience, or one they just couldn’t face up to. A phone appointment alleviates the pressure for many and will likely be around to stay.
Studies show that mental health issues, addiction and domestic violence increased during the pandemic. This means more people booked appointments with social workers to handle these issues. Being stuck indoors for too long led to frustration, and this took a toll on people’s mental health. Social workers saw more cases of anxiety, depression, and other pandemic-influenced issues, and the demand for mental health services increased during this period. Some social workers even found themselves working in areas that were outside of their expertise, as they coped with a shortage of qualified workers.
Despite being overworked during the pandemic, some social workers were able to take advantage of new opportunities. Recent graduates and those who were new to the field found it much easier to obtain a job due to the workforce shortage. Newer aspects of social work were developed quickly, and more people chose areas of specialization as traditional roles expanded to accommodate the new reality. Many social workers also gained experience in dealing with challenges they had never faced in their career before.
An examination of society, once society ceased to function normally, bought more people to think and learn about the social issues they, and those around them, were facing. The Black Lives Matter movement, for example, examined the structural racism that functions in all our lives in some way or another. By the time the pandemic began to slow, many social workers realized they had gained significant experience within a short period. This has spurred new career paths that await social workers today and in the future.
Becoming a social worker requires years of education and training. For most professionals, this career path begins with a bachelor’s degree from a renowned institution. The learning and experience in the field they accumulate while earning their bachelor’s degree can prepare them for higher degrees in the field.
Because the field is vast and new roles emerge regularly, social workers can apply their skills to many aspects of society. Regardless of the role, however, the primary goal remains the same: improving people’s quality of life. Social workers are needed in hospitals, correctional facilities, children’s homes, and other organizations to help vulnerable people.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted other areas of need in many parts of society. Here is a look at five specialties within social work that are worth considering.
An educational consultant helps parents, students, and institutions with their educational needs. They are often hired to work in schools, where they plan the curriculum to ensure students meet educational goals. They are sometimes consulted by parents who need clarification about the school’s objectives.
These professionals can advise parents on their children’s educational needs. They often work with children who have special educational needs, ensuring that the education system is doing all it can to enhance how they receive their education in a way that makes it accessible to their unique needs. Lots of children are vulnerable and professionals can help them put their best foot forward in paving their future. The job is rewarding because it brings these workers closer to children and allows them to shape their future and career choices.
Social workers worked closely with students during the pandemic to help them adapt to the new reality. Some students who were accustomed to in-person classes needed help adapting to the process of learning from home as many struggled with motivation. Educational consultants helped students stay on top of their studies during this challenging time.
This is one of the most popular and enduring roles within social work. As the name implies, it entails working with the immediate community. Community development workers often work for non-profit organizations or government agencies, where they serve as a liaison between the organization and community members.
They engage with community members and impact their lives positively through teachings and counseling sessions. These experts help individuals and families deal with real-life issues such as unemployment, poverty and homelessness. They are also trained to develop and implement policies that help solve the issues their community faces. Creating awareness of diseases like coronavirus is also part of their job as they draw the world’s attention to their communities plight.
Substance abuse is a growing problem in society, and it saw an unfortunate rise in 2020 while the world was on lockdown. Some people who had previously overcome addictions relapsed during the lockdown due to the stress, anxiety and boredom that came with staying isolated.
Unfortunately, some of these individuals resort to desperate measures to feed their addiction, and this type of behavior can put other members of society at risk. This also worsened due to the growing number of cases of domestic violence noted during the pandemic.
Substance abuse counselors help these individuals through their struggles and recommend harm reduction measures that they can take to reduce the health risks of drug use until solutions can be found that will help the patient make their full recovery. They can also help individuals address the underlying causes that led to their addiction.
They also play a valuable role in protecting victims of abuse, helping them escape abusive situations and obtain patient-centered care.
A gerontological social worker works with older adults and their families. As people age, new health issues crop up, and the elderly are more susceptible to contagious diseases such as coronavirus. Studies show that 80% of deaths caused by the virus occurred in adults older than 65. This means that older adults need specialized care. Their living facilities, diet, healthcare and other aspects should be given special attention.
Social workers are well-equipped to care for older adults as they are experienced both academically and practically in handling difficult situations. Those who specialize in gerontology know how to forge friendships with older adults and help them manage their lives. This is an excellent career path for those who enjoy working with older adults.
Social work will always be relevant, even in the decades to come. At a time when artificial intelligence is taking over many other jobs, social workers will still be needed. The work of these professionals requires forming bonds with individuals and communities, which is something only humans are capable of. Moreover, the pandemic highlighted the importance of having a sufficient number of qualified social workers to help society deal with new challenges.