Healthcare Social Worker

AIDS Social Worker, Bereavement Counselor, Case Managers, Certified Social Workers In Health Care   More Names
Clinical Social Worker, Community Advocate, Dialysis Social Worker, Disability Advocate, Disability Coordinator, Disability Specialist, Discharge Planner, Domestic Violence Advocate, Elder Counselor, Family Advocate, Family Support Specialist, Family Support Worker, Geriatric Care Manager, Geriatric Social Worker, Group Social Worker, Health Care Social Worker, Healthcare Advocate, Healthcare Social Worker, Healthcare Social Workers, Home Health Care Social Worker, Hospice Social Worker, Hospital Social Worker, Licensed Social Worker, Long Term Care Social Worker, Medicaid Specialist, Medical Case Manager, Medical Case Worker, Medical Social Consultant, Medical Social Worker, Neonatal Social Worker, Nephrology Social Worker, Nursing Home Social Worker, Older Adult Social Work Specialist, Oncology Social Work, Oncology Social Worker, Outreach and Education Social Worker, Outreach Coordinator, Outreach Specialist, Pediatric Social Worker, Perinatal Social Worker, Public Health Social Worker, Public Welfare Worker, Referral Coordinator, Renal Social Worker, Transition Specialist

Provide psychosocial assessment and support needed by individuals and their families to understand and address diagnoses, chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses (such as Alzheimer's or cancer) or period after a severe stroke or heart attack.

Healthcare social workers are essential members of interdisciplinary healthcare teams and use their skills to help patients address social, financial and psychological problems related to their health conditions. Typical tasks include advising family caregivers, providing patient education and counseling, and arranging or making needed referrals for other social services, such as meals on wheels within the home or hospice care for a terminally-ill elderly patient.

Healthcare social workers - commonly known also as medical and public health social workers - are employed by hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, and local governments, such as departments of public health. Their overall role is to advocate for patients or clients to address emotional, mental, and social issues and help resolve crises throughout the period of healthcare treatment. Healthcare social workers provide psychosocial support to individuals, families, or vulnerable populations so they can cope with chronic (ongoing), acute (brief but severe), or terminal illnesses. They advise family caregivers, counsel patients, and help plan for patients' needs after discharge from hospitals. They may arrange for discharge from a care facility, or for patients' transfer from one care facility to another or to home care services. They also may work on interdisciplinary teams that evaluate certain kinds of patients, such as geriatric (elderly) or organ transplant patients.

Among their tasks, healthcare social workers often will refer patients and their families to various community resources to assist in recovery from mental or physical illness, or to provide access to services such as financial assistance, legal aid, housing, job placement or education. Some healthcare social workers specialize in services for senior citizens and their families. In these cases, they may run support groups for the adult children of aging parents. They also may assess, coordinate, and monitor services delivery in areas such as housing, transportation, and long-term care.

In working with patients and families, healthcare social workers use data from meetings and conversations along with their professional social work experience to develop and coordinate plans for individual patient treatment and rehabilitation plans. They will monitor, evaluate, and record a patient's progress according to measurable goals, and then revise treatment and rehabilitation plans as needed to reflect changes in a patient's condition.

Healthcare social workers can be mid-level to advanced-level professionals who work to counsel and help individuals and families adjust to the long-term consequences of an illness or injury or cope with an acute disease. They need a graduate postsecondary degree to practice in most states. With experience, some may advance to become healthcare social worker managers or directors. Others may go on to seek further postsecondary education to become postsecondary teachers, researchers, or consultants.

Credentials Needed: All 50 states and the District of Columbia have licensing requirements for healthcare social workers to practice in the state. There are variations among the states regarding exactly what is required for licensure. The Association of Social Work Boards provides a list with links to each state's social work regulatory board on their website under the "Find a licensing board" heading.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) sponsors one voluntary industry-based certification that applies directly to healthcare social workers. The Certified Social Worker in Health Care (C-SWHC) credential is an advanced level, specialty certification for healthcare social workers with at least two years experience who also meet a number of other eligibility criteria. This credential is intended to benchmark an individual's skills and competency in the practice of healthcare social work.

The NASW is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the United States and the world with more than 145,000 members. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social work policies.

Some Key Things to Remember: Healthcare social workers provide psychosocial assessment and support needed by individuals, families and vulnerable populations so they can cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. Such illnesses may include Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and emphysema as well as care after a severe stroke or heart attack. Their overall role is to advocate for patients or clients to address psychosocial issues and help resolve crises throughout the period of healthcare treatment. Most states and employers require a healthcare social worker to have a Master's degree in Social Work (MSW). All 50 states and the District of Columbia have licensing requirements for healthcare social workers to practice in their state.

Reviewed for content and accuracy by the National Association of Social Workers, May 2, 2012.

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Job Growth and Wages
Percent Job Growth:  
19% - Faster than average
Typical Wages (National):  
Annual: $41,620 - $65,860    Hourly: $20 - $32
Physical/Medical/Health Requirements

No specifc requirement is identified at this time.

Legal Requirements
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Typical Education: Bachelor's Degree (High School + 4 or more Years)
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(Data Drawn from O*NET)

Career Snapshot

Typical Education:

Master's and Above (High School + 6 or more Years)
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Percent Job Growth:

19% - Faster than average
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Typical Wages:

Annual: $41,620 - $65,860

Hourly: $20 - $32