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Social Work Role in Orthopedics and Rheumatology

Support Group Session

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 their well-being. Your social worker can work with you to identify and address concerns related to the impact of your or your child’s, orthopedic or rheumatologic condition.

While HSS social workers also support inpatient admissions , we offer tailored services to adult and pediatric outpatients in orthopedic and rheumatology areas.

Everyone’s needs are different. When meeting with you, your social worker will want to learn about your perspective on coping with your, or your child’s, musculoskeletal (bone, muscle, joint) condition and how it’s affecting your family’s life. This may include understanding the medical history, any current stressors, your support system, the impact of pain and any limits in function.

Our outpatient social workers are available to provide:

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

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

Rheumatology social workers are available to provide emotional support during a new diagnosis or for a chronic illness, and help you identify and make referrals to community resources to enhance the quality of your life and adjustment to your rheumatologic condition. 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 help reduce the feelings of isolation that may come with a chronic illness and can help with problem solving.

Pediatric social workers support children and their family’s emotional concerns related to the impact of the child’s musculoskeletal condition. Along with the heath care team, we connect families to educational resources designed to assist with understanding your child’s diagnosis.  We help with child safety concerns, school-related issues and obtain referrals to community resources.

You are not alone in dealing with orthopedic and rheumatologic issues. Musculoskeletal disorders may be challenging. Social workers are here to provide support, and 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.

Updated on March 17, 2020

Berenice Adams, social worker

Berenice Adams, LCSW, is the Social Work Manager in the Adult Orthopedic 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.




Susan Rodriguez, social worker

Susan Rodriguez, LCSW, 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.