Social workers are professionals who work with a broad range of clients in hopes of connecting them with the resources they need to live a healthy, valuable life. Not only do they assist people who are coping with trauma or enduring difficult challenges, but they also work with clients in hopes of preventing issues and complications in the future.
At University of the Cumberlands, we believe that all social workers should share common knowledge, values and skills — as this allows them to transfer their foundation of knowledge from one setting to another, regardless of the population they are working with at the time. This is why our human services degree program is the perfect option for students who want to become social workers.
Have you ever wondered what do social workers do? The following are some of the most common daily tasks that social workers complete, regardless of where they work or the people they serve.
What do social workers do at work? They may complete one or more of these 14 tasks throughout the day:
1. Evaluate Cases and Complete Assessments
Regardless of the setting where a social worker is employed, they will likely be required to evaluate clients and cases and subsequently complete assessments. These assessments are used as a benchmark for the case and provide the social worker with an opportunity to determine the client’s needs and what the next best steps are. The assessment is usually the first step that a social worker must complete when they are beginning to work with a new client and are in the process of taking on a new case.
2. Design Customized Care Plans
Social workers quickly discover that no two cases are alike, and that every client requires personalized care and treatment. Once an assessment has been completed, a social worker will develop a customized care plan that addresses the unique needs for the client in relation to their current circumstances. The extent of the care plan will vary based on the client's current situation and their future goals. As a social worker creates and implements a care plan, it is important that they spend a significant amount of time communicating with the client and listening to their needs.
3. Identify Individuals or Communities in Need of Assistance
Most social workers do not wait passively for individuals to come to them in search of assistance. A large part of their role is to actively search for underserved or vulnerable individuals, families or communities that may be in need of help. In many cases, those who are most in need of social services or the assistance of a social worker are not aware that there is help available to them, which is why social workers have to create actionable plans that help them identify those who could benefit from their expertise.
4. Provide Assistance to Those in the Midst of Transition
Social workers assist a variety of clients, including young children, teenagers, adults and elderly people. In most cases, social workers are partnering with clients who are in the midst of transition. For example, a social worker may work directly with a child who has been placed in the foster care system and serve as a bridge between that child and their foster family. In other cases, a social worker may work with an individual who has recently been let go from their position in order to ensure that they are able to access the unemployment services that they need during this time.
5. Research Community Resources
One primary role social workers have is to help clients access the community resources they need in order to improve their current situation. As a result, social workers must be well-informed about the various community resources that are available. On any given day, a social worker is likely to spend some of their time researching non-profit organizations and social welfare programs that are available in their area, in order to better serve their past, present and future clients.
6. Advocate on the Behalf of Clients
In many situations, social workers are asked to intervene on the behalf of their clients because their clients are not able to advocate for themselves. Social workers have a wealth of knowledge about the resources that are available in the community, and they also are very familiar with the steps necessary for a client to get the care or services they need. As a result, they can easily step in and fight for the needs of their clients, often delivering actionable results in a shorter amount of time and with higher rates of success than their clients would be able to achieve.
7. Monitor the Progress of Clients
Once a social worker takes on a case, they must follow that case closely and monitor the progress of their clients. This means that throughout the day, a social worker is often keeping tabs on multiple case files at once. They will need to be in touch with representatives from various agencies and organizations to monitor the progress of resource distribution, and they also need to be in close contact with their clients in order to make sure that they are managing well. Social workers need to be organized and professional individuals who also are caring, concerned and empathetic to the needs of their client.
8. Maintain Accurate Case Files
As a social worker monitors the progress of their clients, they will then need to update the case files. Maintaining accurate case files is absolutely paramount, because many social workers will have these case files audited or reviewed by their superiors. Case files need to include the treatment plan, the progress of all steps that were taken to assist the client, the communication that was sent and received in regard to the case and other pieces of data.
9. Provide Emotional Support or Counseling Services
While social workers often serve as advocates who work behind the scenes to assist their clients, they also are often there as a listening ear for their clients. Social workers spend a lot of time communicating and connecting with their clients, many of whom are dealing with difficult circumstances. As a result, it's not uncommon for social workers to spend some time each day listening to their clients, providing them with emotional support or even offering counseling services, if they have the professional qualifications to do so.
10. Partner with Medical Professionals to Implement a Treatment Plan
Depending on the setting where a social worker is employed, they may be called to work directly with medical professionals to ensure that patients receive the well-rounded, comprehensive care that they need. Social workers may need to partner with physicians, behavioral therapists, and other medical care providers because many treatment plans require the need for medical care, social and emotional support, and also social services.
11. Serve as a Bridge Between Clients and Their Families
Social workers often find themselves as the point of contact between the client and many of the people who are involved in their lives. In some cases, a client's care and improvement may require the support of immediate or extended family members and sometimes even friends or co-workers. As a result, the social worker will often reach out to these individuals and provide them with the information and resources that they need to best support the client. Depending on the circumstances, this can be challenging to navigate, so social workers must be discrete, polite, and empathetic.
12. Respond to Crisis Situations
On some days, social workers may be called to act as first responders. When an emergency occurs — such as when child abuse is reported or when someone is threatening to commit suicide — a social worker may be called to the scene alongside other first responders, such as police officers or firefighters. Social workers need to be ready and prepared to administer emergency assistance in order to provide the best possible care for those who are affected.
13. Communicate and Connect with Their Clients
Communication plays a pivotal role in the daily life of a social worker. Social workers must maintain regular contact with their clients, not only to stay abreast of the latest happenings with their case but also to ensure the client is in good physical and emotional health. Clients appreciate when their social worker reaches out, as it allows them to rest easy knowing they can trust the person who is responsible for helping them improve their own situation. Social workers need to know how to communicate clearly and effectively, and they must be aware of the role that good communication plays in forming lasting connections with their clients.
14. Assist with the Administering of Social Services
While social workers are often called to connect clients with the resources they need, they also may be charged with the administering of those social services. Social workers need to be familiar with all the social welfare systems available, such as food assistance, child support, and affordable health care. They need to verify that these resources are accessible to their clients and work tirelessly to ensure their clients receive the support they need.
A career in social work can be very rewarding, particularly if you feel called to help others and have a positive impact on the people around you.