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Medical Social Services


Contact Information
 
 Medical Social Services Department 
Singapore General Hospital, Block 3 Level 1
 
 Email: mss@sgh.com.sg
 


What is social work? According to the International Federation of Social Workers, the social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems social work intervenes at the point where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.

Medical Social Services Department of Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has been serving its patients, the hospital and community since the 1950s. As a pioneer in the service, our department has grown and expanded alongside SGH, now with at least one Medical Social Worker (MSW) for each clinical specialty. 

Our department attends to patients and their families who have difficulties coping with their emotional, psychological, social and care problems arising from ill health and traumatic injuries. As an inter-disciplinary team player, MSW collaborates with the healthcare team and community resources to provide patients and their families with holistic care. Our social work assistants (SWA) provide support to MSWs in delivering psychosocial care to our patients. 

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Services

Discharge Care & Planning

We assist patients in making a smooth transition from the hospital back to the community that results in the continuity of care and efficient use of hospital and community resources. This can include referrals to community hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, shelter homes, day care centres, senior activity centres, home-help and befriending services. 

Our CareLink provides information and referral services on loan and purchase of medical equipment and appliances, to enable patients to receive continued care at home.

Counselling & Therapy

MSWs are extensively involved in counselling—managing issues from illness coping, illness anxiety, grief and loss, bereavement, single motherhood and other emotional distress. Our trained therapists are proficient in marital and family therapy as a complement to our existing patient counselling services. Therapy is a chargeable service.

Financial Assistance

Medical costs and treatment affordability are common concerns among many patients. In addition to formal assistance schemes such as Medifund, we link needy, eligible patients with external resources to meet their treatment costs, and financial and practical needs arising from their illnesses.

Suicide Assessment and Intervention

Each year, our department attends to more than 300 patients admitted for suicide attempts. Apart from the attempted suicide cases, we also assess patients with suicide ideation. These patients are supported by a dedicated team of MSWs who are competent in Applied Suicide Skills & Intervention Training (ASIST) of LivingWorks (Calgary, Canada) Suicide.

Interpersonal Violence Intervention

A team of specialised MSWs provide risk assessment, safety planning and emotional support for victims of family violence, including domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. Our MSWs also care for victims of sexual assault-empowering them through empathy and supportive services—with the aim of transforming sexual assault victims to sexual assault survivors.

Grief and Bereavement Support

Our MSWs provide grief and bereavement support to families whose loved ones died of sudden or traumatic deaths.

Psychological Trauma Support

Patients admitted for burns, road traffic accidents and other traumatic injuries are exposed to psychological trauma. SGH as the only Burns Centre in Southeast Asia further accentuates our MSWs’ role in supporting affected patients as they cope with psychological trauma. 

MSWs are trained as CARE (Caring Action in Response to an Emergency) officers to provide psychological first aid and Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for people affected by critical incidents or national disaster situations.

Home Visits

As part of post-discharge care services, we conduct home visits to establish patients’ coping capacity in their home environment, linking them with other community resources where necessary. Home visits also allow us to gain a better understanding of patients’ family dynamics and financial situation, hence facilitating us in our case assessment and intervention.

Support Groups

Dealing with the onset of a chronic illness is never an easy experience for patients and their families. As part of increasing their coping capacity, MSWs facilitate support groups, where patients can share their concerns in a supportive environment. Some of these groups include those for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and caregivers of patients with traumatic brain injury.

Staff Counselling

Our department is the first among public hospitals to offer staff counselling for hospital employees who may be affected by personal, family and workplace problems. Employees requesting such services are either self-referred or referred by their colleagues or supervisors. Like in all counselling contexts, employees’ counselling information is kept confidential.

Teaching

Our MSWs are actively involved in training and education. Social Work undergraduate interns from National University of Singapore (NUS) and SIM University (UniSIM) are among some students we train. Some of our MSWs are part-time lecturers at NUS. 

We conduct counselling and social work-related training for healthcare and social work professionals, as well as corporate clients. Examples include Essential Counselling Skills, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Breaking Bad News.

Research

Our department actively engages in evidence-based practice and practice-based research to provide the best care for our patients. The areas of research that we engage in include:
  • Health services research
  • Clinical intervention and evaluation
  • Theory Building
  • Healthcare financing
  • Social Work administration and leadership