Career Development

What Does a Medical Social Worker Do?

Find out what a medical social worker does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a medical social worker.

Medical social workers are healthcare professionals who work with patients to address their social and emotional needs. They often help people manage chronic conditions, navigate the health care system, or deal with other issues that impact their quality of life.

Medical social workers may also provide support to medical teams by helping them understand how a patient’s social situation impacts their health.

Medical Social Worker Job Duties

Medical social workers have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Providing emotional support to patients and families during difficult times such as serious illness, accidents, or death
  • Helping patients apply for government benefits such as Medicaid or Medicare
  • Coordinating with other medical staff members to ensure that the patient receives quality care
  • Providing counseling to patients and their families to help them cope with stressors related to illness
  • Conducting assessments of patients’ social needs to determine their eligibility for services
  • Assisting patients in accessing community resources such as food banks or shelters
  • Coordinating discharge planning with other healthcare providers to ensure a smooth transition from hospital to home or another facility
  • Communicating with insurance companies to ensure claims are processed accurately and in a timely manner
  • Making referrals to other healthcare providers when appropriate, such as psychiatrists or physical therapists

Medical Social Worker Salary & Outlook

Medical social worker salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of patients they work with.

  • Median Annual Salary: $72,500 ($34.86/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $87,500 ($42.07/hour)

The employment of medical social workers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

As the large baby-boom population ages and people live longer, demand for healthcare services is expected to increase. As a result, medical social workers will be needed to help patients navigate the complex healthcare system and access appropriate services.

Medical Social Worker Job Requirements

A medical social worker typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: Medical social workers are required to have a minimum of a master’s degree in social work, health administration or a related field. These programs typically take two years to complete and include coursework in social work, health care, research, statistics, ethics and psychology.

Training & Experience: Most medical social workers receive on-the-job training when they start a new position. This training helps them learn the specific procedures and policies of the organization. It also helps them learn the computer systems and software the organization uses.

Certifications & Licenses: In addition to the required licenses, a medical social worker could seek certifications to show their skills and knowledge in a particular specialty.

Medical Social Worker Skills

Medical social workers need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication is an essential skill for medical social workers. They often communicate with patients, doctors, families and other medical professionals. They also communicate with patients to explain medical procedures and treatments. Medical social workers use communication to educate patients about their health conditions and to help them understand their treatment options.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Medical social workers use empathy to help patients understand their conditions and treatment options. They also use empathy to help patients feel supported and cared for.

Time management: Time management is another important skill for medical social workers. They often have multiple clients and patients to see in a day, so they need to be able to manage their time effectively. This can include scheduling appointments, keeping track of their time and making sure they don’t spend too much time with one patient or client.

Problem-solving: Problem-solving is the ability to identify a problem, analyze its causes and develop a solution. Social workers often use their problem-solving skills to help their patients overcome challenges. For example, a medical social worker may help a patient who has a substance abuse problem find a treatment program that can help them overcome their addiction.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to analyze a situation and make a decision based on the information you have. Social workers often use critical thinking skills to make treatment plans for their patients. They may also use critical thinking skills to identify the root cause of a patient’s issues and find the best way to address them.

Medical Social Worker Work Environment

Medical social workers typically work in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare settings. They may also work in community health agencies, nursing homes, or hospices. They typically work full time, and some may work evenings or weekends to meet with clients or attend meetings. Medical social workers may have to deal with emotionally charged situations and may be exposed to contagious diseases. They may also be on call 24 hours a day to provide crisis counseling.

Medical Social Worker Trends

Here are three trends influencing how medical social workers work. Medical social workers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Growth of Telemedicine

The growth of telemedicine is a trend that is quickly changing the medical industry. With the help of technology, patients can now see doctors and therapists online without having to leave their homes.

This trend is having a major impact on the medical social work profession, as social workers are now needed to help patients navigate this new form of healthcare. Social workers will need to be familiar with the benefits and risks of telemedicine, as well as how to help patients feel comfortable using it.

More Focus on Patient-Centered Care

As health care moves towards a more patient-centered model, medical social workers will need to focus on providing care that meets the needs of individual patients.

This shift in focus means that medical social workers will need to be able to communicate effectively with patients and their families, as well as understand the different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that they come from. In addition, medical social workers will need to be able to provide support for patients throughout all stages of their treatment.

Greater Emphasis on Mental Health

Mental health is becoming an increasingly important topic in today’s society, as more and more people are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. As a result, medical social workers are being called upon to play a larger role in the treatment of these conditions.

Medical social workers can capitalize on this trend by becoming experts in mental health treatment. They can do this by attending training seminars and conferences, reading books and journals, and networking with other professionals in the field.

How to Become a Medical Social Worker

A career as a medical social worker can be incredibly rewarding. It offers the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives, and to help them navigate the healthcare system.

To become a medical social worker, you need to have a degree in social work. You can then specialize in medical social work by completing additional training and certification.

Related: How to Write a Medical Social Worker Resume

Advancement Prospects

Medical social workers typically need a master’s degree in social work (MSW). Some jobs may require certification in clinical social work.

Medical social workers typically start their careers working under the supervision of more experienced social workers. With experience, they may advance to supervisory or managerial positions. Some social workers open their own private practices.

Medical Social Worker Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality, patient-centered healthcare. We are looking for a medical social worker to join our team and provide support to our patients and their families. The ideal candidate will have a Master’s degree in social work and be licensed in the state of [StateX]. He or she will have experience working in a medical setting and be familiar with the challenges that come with chronic and terminal illnesses. The medical social worker will provide counseling and support to patients and their families, connect them with resources, and advocate on their behalf.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Serve as a liaison between patients, families, and the interdisciplinary healthcare team to ensure that social and emotional needs are being met
  • Conduct psychosocial assessments to identify patients’ and families’ strengths, weaknesses, resources, and support systems
  • Develop and implement treatment plans that address patients’ and families’ social, emotional, and practical needs
  • Provide crisis intervention and counseling services to patients and families
  • Educate patients and families about available community resources and make referrals when appropriate
  • Advocate on behalf of patients and families to ensure that their rights and preferences are respected
  • Collaborate with members of the healthcare team to coordinate care and discharge planning
  • Keep accurate records of patient assessments, interventions, and progress
  • Attend interdisciplinary team meetings to provide input on patients’ social and emotional needs
  • Participate in quality improvement initiatives to help the organization provide the best possible care
  • Serve as a resource to other members of the healthcare team on issues related to social work practice
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of social work best practices and ethical guidelines

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in social work (MSW) from an accredited school of social work
  • 2 years of post-graduate clinical experience in a medical setting
  • Current license to practice as a social worker in the state of employment
  • Demonstrated knowledge of psychosocial assessment, diagnosis, and intervention
  • Ability to work independently and with a team
  • Excellent communication, time management, and organizational skills

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • 4 years of post-graduate clinical experience in a medical setting
  • Experience working with patients who have chronic illnesses
  • Bilingual abilities
  • Certification in Hospice and Palliative Care

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