Medical or Health Care Social Worker

What Is Medical Social Work?

Medical social workers address the emotional, social and financial issues that frequently arise with health care issues. They may serve as case managers, counselors and advocates, providing patients and families with the nonmedical support needed to deal with acute, chronic and terminal conditions.

Medical social workers also provide referrals so patients can access health care resources, and help locate financial and legal assistance for patients in need. The majority of medical social workers work in general medical and surgical hospitals. Medical social workers may also be employed by outpatient clinics, residential care facilities and home health care services. In hospital settings, medical social workers are commonly responsible for reviewing new admissions, handling patient discharges and following up on aftercare plans.

Due to the nature of this work, they may be called upon at any hour of the day or night. Other types of support provided by medical social workers include helping patients make informed decisions about treatment options and providing advice about advanced directives and end-of-life planning.

In addition to the more routine or administrative aspects of their roles, medical social workers often must respond to crisis situations and provide psychological assessments and clinical therapy. They frequently address the needs of entire families, especially when managing a caseload that includes patients who are children. Besides providing support for the treatment of disease and chronic conditions, medical social workers also promote strategies for maintaining health and wellness.

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School Program Description
University of Denver
  • Research-driven faculty dedicated to making an impact on social problems
  • Prepares you to apply social work skills across practice settings
Fordham University
  • Four areas of focus: Individuals and Families, Organizations and Community, Evaluation, and Policy Practice and Advocacy
Simmons University
  • Four Clinical Specializations: Child and Family, Trauma and Interpersonal Violence, Mental Health and Addictions, and Health and Aging
  • Three program tracks: Traditional, Accelerated, and Extended
Case Western Reserve University
  • From Case Western Reserve University’s top-10 ranked School of social work
  • Traditional and Advanced Standing tracks available
University of Southern California (USC)
  • Offered by USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, a top-ranked graduate School by U.S. News and World Report
  • Features virtual and in-person field education in or near student's own communities
Baylor University
  • Ethically integrates faith and social work practice
  • Specialize in clinical practice or community practice

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Become a Medical Social Worker

Medical social workers are required to navigate the increasingly complex U.S. healthcare system and frequently make critical decisions that directly affect patient outcomes. To prepare for the high level of responsibility the career entails, medical social workers must at least hold a bachelor’s degree.

In order to practice as a clinical social worker, a master of social work degree from a program that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is required. State licensure is also required for clinical social workers who work in medical settings. In addition to professional training, it is important for medical social workers to have strong interpersonal and organizational skills and to possess a sense of compassion.

Many social work schools offer concentrations in health that provide the knowledge, skills, and healthcare education required for careers in medical social work. These concentrations allow students to focus on case management, team development, integrative medicine, medical advocacy and other areas that are critical to the practice of medical social work.

Medical Social Work Jobs

The job prospects for medical social workers is very promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predict a 17 percent gain in employment between 2018 and 2028; a much higher rate than average for all other occupations. The continued growth of healthcare spending additionally increases opportunities for clinical and medical social workers. The aging of the baby-boom generation will also fuel an increase in demand for medical social workers as older people and their families require assistance with health care decisions and related social services.

According to the BLS, the mean annual medical social worker salary is $58,470, or an average hourly wage of $28.11. Social workers employed within hospital settings earn a mean annual salary of $64,910. In contrast, medical workers working in individual or family service roles earn an annual average of $52,480. Some of the top employers of medical social workers include medical and surgical hospitals, individual and family services, home health care services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers.

Medical social worker jobs are more likely to have greater consistency than other social work roles. Their work is characterized by fewer schedule and task changes, and less driving than other social workers.

Further Reading