How Does Paperwork Keep Social Workers From Quality Time With Their Clients?

Being a social worker can be such a rewarding career, but social work paperwork can be problematic. In order to satisfy governmental and insurance funding sources, along with agency personnel, professionals must complete a great deal of documentation on each client they serve. This can be time-consuming and frustrating for everyone involved. Keep reading to learn how paperwork keeps social workers from spending quality time with their clients and other problems this task can cause.

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Overwhelming for Clients

Paperwork can even be a burden for clients. This is particularly true when it comes to intake forms. A social worker wants to learn as much as possible about their client and their family at the beginning of a case. This information can help the worker to create the most relevant treatment plan. However, asking tedious questions and filling out hours worth of paperwork at the beginning of the relationship can be exhausting. It may not always serve very well in establishing bonds. It can also seem overwhelming and impersonal to clients.

Time-Consuming for Social Workers

Paperwork takes up a significant portion of a social worker's workload. Sometimes social workers are paid at a lower rate for their paperwork time than for face-to-face client interaction. This abundance of paperwork takes away time the professional could be establishing rapport with the client and making progress toward helping them.

Minimizes Genuine Interaction

Asking clients pre-written questions from a form may not be the best way to obtain personal information. A more casual, friendly approach through genuine conversation is likely better. The time spent filling out paperwork takes away from more human interactions that the social worker could be having with families. It can come across as formulaic and cold, which can lead to clients being reluctant to share their stories. This is quite counterproductive to the intent of the helping relationship.

Puts Too Much Pressure on Social Worker

There is a lot of pressure for professionals within the helping fields to complete documentation. Numerous stakeholders require it such as health insurance representatives, agency staff and school personnel. While much of this paperwork is useful, a great deal is a matter of administrative protocol. Sometimes workers even feel that they could be terminated if a portion of their documentation isn't completed correctly or is turned in late.

Leads to Burnout

All of the above examples have been known to lead to social worker burnout within the profession. Workers feel overwhelmed. They are spending more time filling out forms than actual quality interaction with clients. The paperwork takes away from their own obligations and relationships within their personal lives. It can be so demanding of their time and emotional resources that it's not unusual for social workers to simply quit, as the cost for them is no longer worth the reward.

It's important to anyone looking to enter the profession to be aware that completing documentation is a large part of their job. While each agency is different, there's usually no escaping the reality of social work paperwork and its impact on spending time with clients.

Source: The Guardian