Our social workers pick up a copy of the unit census first thing every weekday morning. (As with so many other disciplines we have no night or weekend coverage.) They then have the patient's name, age and reason for admission right there in front of them. They make contact with each and every family whether there's a need identified or not, simply to offer support and help the family to sort out their resources. (Unless, of course, the child is admitted on a Friday night and is transferred out by Monday morning!) If it's a planned admission, such as for cardiac surgery, they will have met the family already as part of the preadmission process. There's a social work intake form that includes demographic information, a list of potential needs and a section for narrative regarding the interview with the family, concluded with a social work plan. Following every interaction with the family, the social worker charts in the progress notes... or they're supposed to. We have two newer (recent grads) social workers whose track records for ensuring the notes make it into the charts leave much to be desired. There are some families who are receiving intensive intervention whose child's chart contains little or no information that could be important to the rest of the team. We're not used to this; we had two stellar social workers before who never went home without putting a note in every appropriate chart. But they both left in the same week over our working conditions.
Any of the nurses has the ability to call the office or page them during their hours of work. Oftentimes, they'll come by the bedside to make contact with a family and if the family's not there they'll ask the nurse to page them when the family arrives. (And we have the time and opportunity to do that, right?)
There is a certain portion of our population who are well-accustomed to working with the social work system and they will actually ask for the social worker as soon as they walk through the door. Their needs are simple: meal warrants, parking pass/bus tickets/taxi vouchers, cellphone calling cards and accommodations.
Because of the size of our catchment area, the wide variety of people we serve, their disparate socioeconomic status and the range of services we provide, our social workers have a difficult job. They spend hours on the phone with provincial and federal government offices, charities, other social workers and many other people. If only they communicated better with the rest of the team!