They form the crucial link between the medical fraternity and the patient. Welcome to the world of medical sociologists.
G. Chitra’s day begins with ward-rounds at the Stanley Medical College (SMC), where she greets patients with a smile, and enquires about their health and treatment they are undergoing. She patiently listens to them and then goes to the Out Patient (OP) ward , where she addresses the people assembled there about Cholera and hygiene habits to be adopted. She then goes to the burn injury ward to provide psychiatric counselling to a young girl who had immolated herself after a domestic quarrel.
Welcome to the world of clinical/medical social workers. Thousands of inspired youth like Chitra are efficiently rendering their service to society by working in the field of medicine. Upon completing a masters in social work, Chitra is now pursuing M.Phil in clinical social work at the SMC. “Health care must reach the poorest of the poor and it is with this mission that I decided to take up this career,” Chitra says.
Jennifer Nancy and Yurei Pam are students of medical sociology at the Loyola College, Chennai. While Yurei wants to work in hospitals in the North East and be involved in health promotion, Jennifer wants to specialise in patient counselling.
“Medical sociology students learn to understand society from the health point of view. A nation’s wealth is its people’s health. Therefore, it is the duty of the medical social workers to function as facilitators between health care providers and the recipients,” says Rev. Dr. MJM. Mahalingam, course coordinator of the department of medical sociology, Loyola College, Chennai. Government, NGO’s and voluntary agencies make use of the services of the medical sociologists.
“Medical sociologists need to have the right aptitude and approach. They approach any issue in medicare in the patients perspective only and reach out the patient at the right time,” says Dr.Philomena Mariados, dean and head, department of medical sociology, MMM College of Health Sciences, Chennai.
Bridging the gap
Hemalatha, who completed her PG course in medical sociology, was recruited by Mohan Foundation, an NGO that works in the field of organ donation. “I aspired for a career in nursing, but when I came to know of this course, I decided this is the most appropriate field for me. We are the bridge between health care and society, the focus being on how effectively and efficiently healthcare is provided to an individual who seeks treatment,” says Hemalatha, who has specialised in creating awareness and educating the general public about organ donation.
“There is a dearth of trained and qualified medical sociologists. Their services are inevitable in the hospital environment as they are the ones who act as a bridge between the doctors and the patients,” says Dr. S Geethalakshmi, dean, SMC.
Group counselling, teaching the importance of medicine, motivating the patients, treatment education and counselling the caretakers of the patient are the areas where doctors utilize the services of medical social workers.
A.P.Irungovel, head of department of medical sociology, Sankara Nethralya, Chennai, who has twenty years of experience in this field, says “Role played by the medical sociologists is immensely significant. Thus, is it important that they keep themselves abreast about development in medical field and upgrade their knowledge constantly,” he says.