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Social Work Role in Orthopedics and Rheumatology

social worker talking to patient

Social workers are integral members of the health care team, working closely with doctors, nurses, nutritionists, physical therapists and other professionals to care for the whole person. We work with individuals, families, groups and communities to enhance well being. Your social worker can work with you to identify and address concerns related to the impact of your orthopedic or rheumatologic condition.

While HSS social workers also support inpatient admissions and pediatric patients, we offer tailored services to adult outpatients in orthopedics and rheumatology. Everyone’s needs are different. When meeting with you, your social worker will want to learn about your perspective on coping with your musculoskeletal (bone, muscle, joint) condition and how it’s affecting your life. This may include understanding your medical history, your current stressors, your support system, the impact of pain and limits in how you function.

Our outpatient social workers are available to you to provide:

  • support and education to help you better understand your condition and treatment options
  • assistance in understanding the emotional and social effects of your condition and ways to cope
  • advice on how to best communicate with your doctor, surgeon and other members of the health care team, to help you make the most of your medical visits
  • education and assistance with insurance, home care and transportation services
  • referrals to government programs and community resources, including mental health services

Orthopedic social workers can also provide specific help regarding planning for surgery, which can improve the outcome of your procedure. We can help you clarify your options related to decisions about surgery. We can also provide you with emotional support and strategies for coping with the pain and disability caused by your musculoskeletal condition.

Rheumatology social workers are available to provide clarification and emotional support during a new diagnosis of a chronic illness, validate your experience, help you identify and negotiate expectations, and support you in maintaining your self esteem. We can also refer you to one of our disease-specific patient support and education programs. Many people find that participating in a group can reduce the feelings of isolation that may come with a chronic illness and can help with problem-solving.

You are not alone in dealing with orthopedic and rheumatologic issues. Musculoskeletal disorders may be challenging. Social workers are here to provide support, to help you enhance your quality of life.

To learn more about the role of social workers at HSS, visit https://hss.edu/social-work-programs.asp.

Berenice Adams, LCSW, is a senior social worker in the Ambulatory Care Center. She received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University School of Social Work and has extensive background working with patients undergoing total joint replacement surgeries.

Emily Dorfman, LMSW, is the social worker for adult outpatient rheumatology patients. She received a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University School of Social Work and has extensive experience working with people with rheumatologic conditions.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.