What Do Medical Social Workers Do?

medical-social-workerIf you have achieved Master of Social Work (MSW) from a CSWE-accredited program and are interested in pursuing a career path that enables you to work within the thriving healthcare industry, it is highly recommended that you consider becoming a medical social worker.

As vital members of the healthcare team at hospitals, assisted care facilities, nursing homes, hospices, residential treatment centers, and other long-term healthcare institutions, medical social workers provide valuable social services to patients who are in the midst of challenging medical issues. The following is a full job description for medical social workers and a guide on how you can enter this rewarding social work career to make a significant difference in patients' lives.

Daily Duties for Medical Social Workers

Medical social workers are responsible for offering the support and resources that patients need in order to fully recover from a medical illness or injury as well as the resulting emotional, physical, or psychological concerns. After performing a comprehensive assessment of a patient's support needs, they work with the patient's family, support system, and other health service providers to coordinate an individualized discharge plan for in-home medical equipment, transportation, meal plans, counseling, or other follow-up treatments. Medical social workers arrange all available resources to ensure patients recover and achieve optimal well-being.

Medical social workers complete psychological assessment, develop discharge plans, arrange home care services, provide appropriate referrals, offering support groups, and advocating for patients and their families. However, since medical social workers work with patients with ranging medical situations from traumatic sexual assault to terminal cancer diagnosis, their duties tend to change according to each patient's individual needs. In serious cases of child abuse or violence, medical social workers may also be responsible for providing psycho-social support, grief counseling, and assisting law enforcement in their investigations.

How to Become a Medical Social Worker

Although a bachelor's degree in social work or psychology may be sufficient for landing some entry-level positions in the field, most hospitals and other healthcare agencies require a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from an accredited institution. In addition to the required coursework in the graduate program, students are required to fulfill at least 900 hours of supervised training with a qualified medical social worker in a hospital setting. Then, it is essential that medical social workers obtain licensing in their state for the best advancement opportunities. According to the Association of Social Work Boards, most states require at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience and a passing score on an exam for licensure.

Essential Medical Social Work Skills

In order to be successful as a medical social worker, it is important that individuals possess strong interpersonal skills to foster productive relationships with diverse patients and their families. Medical social workers need to perfect their listening skills to fully understand their patients' needs, organizational skills to maintain detailed treatment or discharged plans, and problem-solving skills to develop innovative solutions to unique challenges. Most importantly, medical social workers need to be emotionally stable and compassionate to demonstrate empathy towards patients in stressful health situations.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that employment for medical social workers is projected to grow much faster than average at 27 percent before 2022 due to the increased need for healthcare services, it is an excellent time for qualified candidates to consider entering this in-demand career path. With the appropriate training and experience, you can get on the right track to working as a licensed medical social worker and helping patients cope with stressful healthcare concerns.

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