The Need for Social Workers, During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

"As has been true after other pandemics and economic downturns, professionally trained social workers may be a key to helping people find their way in the new economy." -GMercyU's Social Work Program Director Wade Luquet, PhD

This spring, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) released a brief that emphasized the Coronavirus as a threat to the physical health of Americans and one that will "with certainty, disrupt the economic and social stability of many individuals and families. This means that vulnerable and marginalized populations are at very high risk for bearing the brunt of the pandemic."

With more than 1.7 million Americans diagnosed with Coronavirus since January and with jobless claims passing 40 million at the end of May, social workers - who are considered part of the "essential workforce" - play a critical role of support for America's vulnerable populations.

Why Social Workers Are Essential During the Pandemic

Social workers provide myriad services to those in need. By definition, social work includes identifying and addressing challenges in areas such as home life, finances, employment, and relationships. COVID-19 has impacted them all.

Since many low-wage workers do not enjoy the ability to safely work from home, they continue to bear an increased risk of exposure to the virus. The Coronavirus may have also led to financial instability due to the temporary or permanent loss of a job; in these cases, social workers might help people access unemployment wages, food, and healthcare. Social workers connect individuals and families to federal, state, and local assistance programs for this support.

Social isolation, financial woes, and fear of or anxiety about the future are all significant stressors that can exacerbate existing depression or anxiety. Social workers often provide a safe place for individuals to express their feelings of grief, loss, and confusion.

Social workers may have also helped arrange childcare support for those sickened by COVID-19. And of course, social workers may have helped coordinate care for patients recovering from COVID-19.

Challenges Social Workers Have Faced in 2020

Due to social distancing guidelines and a basic lack of funding and resources, rehab or crisis shelters may not have been able to continue accepting individuals suddenly faced with homelessness, addiction, or mental health challenges related to, or exacerbated by, COVID-19. Social workers may have also seen an increase in domestic violence or abuse during stay-at-home orders. Many families also are struggling to manage their daily routines with children out of school.

To compound these challenges, social distancing has also meant that traditional, in-person appointments with clients haven't been possible. Many social workers have used tele-health services as an alternative; however, not all clients have access to broadband services that make it possible to have virtual face-to-face meetings.

The stress of these challenges, in addition to the pandemic itself, requires social workers to remember to take care of themselves as they take care of others. In fact, the NASW recently offered self-care resources on their website to help social workers cope as they continue to provide critical support to those who need it most.

"Even with the additional challenges, social workers continue to report high levels of work satisfaction because they know that their work is important," said GMercyU's Social Work Program Director Wade Luquet, PhD. "Satisfaction comes with knowing your work has meaning in the lives of others, and few professions offer as much meaning as social work."

Social Work After the Pandemic

Covid-19 will continue to affect the population long after the virus is gone. What does that mean for social workers? "Loss of income and jobs, lingering physical problems, and a change in the employment picture means social workers will be working to help people re-invent themselves in the new normal that will emerge," Dr. Luquet said.

"The need will continue to be great for social workers in hospitals, assisted-living facilities, rehabilitation centers, and schools. As has been true after other pandemics and economic downturns, professionally trained social workers may be a key to helping people find their way in the new economy," Dr. Luquet added.

Make a Positive Impact by Helping Others

Social work is an exceptionally rewarding career that makes a lasting difference in the lives of others and entire communities. Get started on your social work career path today by earning a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from GMercyU. Our comprehensive BSW program offers real-world, practical experience and prepares students for professional licensure. Fully accredited by the Council for Social Work Education (CSWE), GMercyU's BSW program also offers eligibility for advanced standing in the CSWE Master's Degree programs, which means students that compete the BSW program can earn their MSW in just one year.