Recent social work graduates who are interested in integrating healthcare into their careers may ask, "Can I get a social work job in a hospital?" The answer is a resounding, "yes". Social workers who are employed in hospitals are called Medical Social Workers. Of course, there is also a specific certification for medical social work.
What Does a Medical Social Worker Do?
Medical social workers have many different responsibilities within a hospital, according to Health Careers About.com. They work with patients and their families to ensure that they understand the patient's prognosis and treatment options. Often, that includes helping the group accept a poor prognosis, and doing grief counseling. If a hospital patient experiences trauma because of an incident such as a sudden death in his family, the medical social worker may do crisis intervention. Staff may also call the social worker for crisis intervention with a patient who is at-risk of suicide or homicide. Medical social workers often evaluate the mental health status of patients or their chemical dependency so that appropriate treatment may be started. When a patient is able to return to his home, or go to another facility, the social worker may initiate discharge planning. The worker assesses the needs of the patient and helps them and their families arrange for appropriate care, whether that involves transportation to out-patient appointments or in-home nursing services. In some cases, the medical social worker acts as a liaison between the family and hospice. The professional locates resources, including financial resources, to assist them in after-hospital care. Working with patients is just part of the medical social worker's job in the hospital. He or she may also train staff to recognize conditions such as depression in patients, and also facilitates communication and cooperation between all members of the treatment team.
What Kind of Education is Needed to Become a Medical Social Worker?
A professional may work in a hospital with a bachelor's degree in social work, as long as he or she is credentialed. People wanting supervisory or administrative degrees as medical social workers should hold a graduate degree. In addition, the National Association of Social Workers certifies professionals as Social Workers in Health Care. Certification requires a master's degree in social work, twenty hours annually in continuing education, two years or 3,000 hours of experience in a supervised position and licensure as a social worker.
What do Social Workers Employed in Hospitals Earn?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median annual wage for these professionals is $52,520. The projected job growth rate for social workers employed in hospitals is nine percent, which is fairly low. Social work websites point out, however, that there is a great deal of job satisfaction because the workers get to see immediate positive effects in patient lives. Hospitals are consolidating their staffs and sometimes the medical social worker assumes different duties and titles.
If you are a social work student or a graduate with a social work degree who wants to work in healthcare, it may be important to apply for certification as soon as you meet the requirements. Licensure and certification are two ways you can promote your own job security and advance in your position if you obtain a social work job in a hospital.