TOBIE GILLEAN: Social workers focus on life's journey

After completing an internship at North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo in 1994, I was offered an opportunity to join the Social Work Department on a full-time basis. Since that time, I have transitioned throughout our health care organization and experienced social work in different medical settings, including hospice care, rehabilitation, behavioral health and women's health.

The social work field was an interest to me early on because of the profession's calling to help others. After my introduction to medical social work, I quickly learned I wanted to specialize in this area. As medical social workers, we act as navigators for patients and families by providing information, education and emotional support during difficult times. We help families deal with stressors related to declining health in multiple settings such as inpatient acute care, home health, hospice, behavioral and mental health, rehabilitation, outpatient and long term care. Through individual and family counseling, psycho-social assessments and coordinating care, social workers provide a range of services to fill critical gaps in long term care planning.

In March, NMMC has joined the National Association of Social Workers in celebrating National Social Work Month. This year's theme – Life's Journey: Help Starts Here – focuses on how social workers help all people at every stage of life, while promoting dignity for everyone especially the most vulnerable among us.

The “Graying of America” and lengthening life spans put new pressures on individuals and families. Social workers have the specialized knowledge, skill and expertise to address these pressures. They strive to promote independence, autonomy and dignity for all their patients.

Vital link

Social workers throughout our health care system provide a vital link between older citizens and the health-related services they may need. We understand that the best elder care requires a broad view of social, environmental, psychological, economic and health care options. As older Americans face challenges of limitations as a result of aging, such as limited mobility, social workers intervene to ensure appropriate care and services are received.

Social Work Month also provides an opportunity for social workers to highlight the essential role they play in alleviating some of America's most difficult problems. Through education, training and dedication, social workers provide assistance in many different practice areas including health, mental health, child welfare, end of life, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS and family violence.

The 40 social workers employed throughout the NMMC health care organization are dedicated to ensuring people from all walks of life have access to adequate resources and services. We strive to enhance human well-being and meet basic human needs of all people. Through education training and dedication, social workers make our community a better place.

To find comprehensive information about the role of social work and where to go for assistance for these and other issues, visit

Tobie Gillean, LMSW, is a social worker with North Mississippi Medical Center.

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