The integration of health and social care teams has led some senior managers to question whether there is any real difference between social workers and OTs and whether their common skills and shared values make the roles interchangeable or at least mean a professional background in either discipline is appropriate to manage an integrated team. The example often given is working with elderly people or those who have had a stroke. Are they right or are they failing to recognise important differences?
What's the difference
What's the difference between a social worker and an OT. Not a lot. Neither are risk adverse, both champion the social rather than the medical model of care, both promote independence, both are part of the re enablement approach to hospital discharge, both focus on assessment, both are part of multidisciplinary approaches, both draw up care plans and put together care packages.
The difference or absence of it recently became apparent when my mother in law had a stroke. After a week in hospital she was discharged home. The NHS stroke pathway team provided four visits a day to support her at home as part of a re enablement care package. On the day of discharge the OT met us at my mother in laws flat. The questions asked about help with personal care, mobility and medication, the confirmation of a care pack arrangements, the discussion about a care plan based on regaining skills and confidence and the reassurances to family, even the form filling were no different to that which any social worker would follow.
Of course as the service was being provided by the NHS it was free at the point of delivery and therefore the OT did not discuss the individuals financial circumstances. The re enablement service would be an on going assessment of my mother in laws progress and in four to six weeks they would refer her to social services with recommendations on the level of support she needed. At which point a social worker would," do an assessment ". This " assessment" would be of eligibility for a service or a personal care budget.
The difference between a social worker and OT is not in their skill set or their professional values.
OTs focus on the individual and recognise the importance of motivation in any rehab programme. A social work assessment looks beyond the individual to include an assessment of the carers needs ( usually daughter or daughter in law). In my experience, possibly due to unrealistic workloads both become task orientated and focused on the physical needs underestimating the need for emotional support and the impact of anxiety. The later seems to me where social work has something extra to offer.