Facing the challenges together: a future vision for health social work
Numerous questions, tensions and professional concerns emerge when we are asked to contemplate future visions for social work in healthcare. When I was approached to author this chapter the editors suggested I consider the question ‘ what do you expect health social work practice to look like ten years from now? ’ In order to better respond to this question I turned to the literature, refl ected on current health social work practice, considered the policy, economic, political and organisational context in which health social work practice occurs, spoke to colleagues and remembered my own and close families ’ recent encounters with the health system. I also refl ected on the demands and achievements associated with my present professional leadership of health social workers. This process of critical refl ection has left me with more questions than answers, and the future vision I have explored and mapped out should be considered tentative at best. This tentativeness is associated with the tensions that emerged during this refl ective activity and the stark realisation that the profession will be required to continually navigate and resolve a number of signifi cant challenges in order to ensure a sustainable future. In order to formulate a response to these tests the chapter objectives include:
1. A brief exploration of the perennial challenges and emerging themes health social workers face;
2. An outline of the core functions and roles of health social workers; 3. An exploration of some of the professional activities and strategies
that will help strengthen and sustain the professions role in a health environment.