Start a Medical Social Work Career
- Fordham University - Master of Social Work Online. Top-ranked graduate school of social work by U.S. News & World Report (2018)
- Baylor University - Master of Social Work Online. No GRE required.
- Case Western Reserve University - Earn your master’s in social work online at CWRU in as little as two and a half years. Bachelor’s degree required.
What Is Medical Social Work?
Today, the medical and healthcare system in this country can be utterly overwhelming and confusing for many people, not to mention extraordinarily expensive. In fact, today’s healthcare system is enough to intimidate and frighten even the strongest and most competent people. Serious illnesses and injuries are sometimes even enough to devastate and ruin some patients for years.
Medical social workers, however, are there to help patients navigate the world of healthcare. These social workers can help individuals do everything from find medical care to help pay for medical care to recover from an illness or injury. This might include offering advice, acting as a patient advocate, or referring a patient to facilities or programs.
In general, medical social workers work with all types of patients. Individuals that may benefit from the help of medical social workers might be any age and from all walks of life. If you choose to start a medical social work career, you will generally work closely with children and their parents, adults, and the elderly. You might also work with poverty-stricken patients, along with those with average to high incomes as well.
Knowledge of medical procedures, such as diagnosis and treatment methods, is generally recommended if you’re looking to become a medical social worker. In addition, you should also be able to communicate effectively with patients, families, doctors, nurses, and healthcare facility bureaucrats. Organizational skills, patience, and an understanding disposition are also excellent traits to have when pursuing a medical social worker career.
Why Do We Need Medical Social Workers?
The medical and healthcare world can be confusing and intimidating, both emotionally and financially. In fact, some individuals in need of healthcare may even avoid going to the doctor or the hospital purely for these reasons. Leaving serious injuries or illnesses untreated is often dangerous, and can even be fatal at times.
Instead of floundering around in the dark, stressing about the quality of their medical care, or wondering how they’re going to pay for it all, patients can seek the help of medical social workers. These professionals work hard to help ease patients’ minds by acting as patient advocates and supporting them every step of the way. In short, a medical social worker can help simplify the medical world for patients and their families.
What Do Medical Social Workers Do?
A career in medical social work also often involves informing patients of their rights. In general, a patient’s rights typically include - but, aren’t limited to - such things as
- the right to be treated with respect and dignity,
- the right to make decisions regarding healthcare,
- the right to choose a doctor that can give adequate care,
- the right to ask questions and have them answered in easy to understand terms,
- the right to be free of abuse, neglect, or exploitation,
- the right to know how much medical treatment will cost before undergoing any procedures,
- the right to access one’s own medical information, and
- the right to emergency medical treatment regardless of the ability to pay.
Medical social workers typically work closely with a number of different individuals, including doctors, nurses, patients, and patients’ families. Assessing the needs of a patient is usually the first step that a medical social worker will take. This might involve interviewing the patient, his family, and his doctors.A thorough patient assessment will help a medical social worker determine what a patient’s needs are, and how these needs can be met. The social worker will also answer any questions and address any concerns that a patient and his family may have. Besides offering advice and support, a medical social worker will also help patients overcome any obstacles or hurdles regarding their medical treatment.Financial issues are some of the most common issues that medical social workers are faced with each day. These social workers will often be charged with attempting to ease the financial burdens of medical care. They will often work with patients with inadequate or non-existent health insurance. In these cases, a social worker might help patients figure out how to pay for medical treatments, by helping them apply for assistance programs or setting up payment arrangements.
Adequate care and understanding medical caregivers are also concerns that many patients may have during treatment. A medical social worker can help patients find the proper care, by referring them to medical facilities and specialists that cater to their needs. If a doctor is not a good fit for a patient, a medical social worker can also help the patient find a different doctor or caregiver that may be more understanding of the patient’s specific condition.
A medical social worker’s job doesn’t always stop after a patient is discharged from the hospital either. Once a patient returns home, a medical social worker might also make sure that the patient’s needs are being met at home as well. A medical social worker may be responsible to coordinate post-treatment resources, if a patient needs additional help at home because of his medical condition. For instance, he might help set up necessary services, such as home healthcare services or assisted living services.
Where Do Medical Social Workers Find Employment?
If you’re interested in pursuing a medical social work career, you’ll most likely be able to find employment in facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers, emergency clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Some medical social workers might also be able to find employment in government offices as well.
What Are the Education Requirements for a Medical Social Work Career?
|Education Requirements||Education Length||Available Programs|
|LBSW (License Bachelor's Social Work)||Bachelor's||4 Years||Online or Campus|
|LMSW (Licensed Master's Social Worker)||Master's||6 Years||Online or Campus|
|LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker)||Master's +3200 Clinical Hours||7-8 Years||Online or Campus|
The majority of these professionals start their medical social work careers by completing a bachelor’s degree program in social work. Graduates that hold degrees in nursing might also be able to pursue medical social work careers.
Although some facilities may hire medical social workers with bachelor’s degrees, most require applicants to have master’s degrees in social work. Most employers also require medical social workers to be licensed as well, which typically requires completion of around 1,000 hours of supervised clinical fieldwork.
What Is the Salary for a Medical Social Worker?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics splits social workers into four categories. One of those categories is healthcare social workers. In this instance, medical social workers count as healthcare social workers and according to the BLS, as of May 2014, the average annual salary of a medical social worker was $53,590 with the top 10 percent of child social workers earning $76,940. Those that worked in specialty hospitals earned a annual average salary of $66,640.