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Care and Psychosocial Support Coordinators
Medical Social Worker
- Assesses a patient’s social, emotional, environmental, financial, and support needs.
- Informs other members of the health care team about these factors, which may affect the patient’s health and well-being.
- Works with the patient’s family and other service provider agencies to develop a plan for care of the patient in his or her home or other living arrangement.
- Typically has a master’s degree in social work (MSW).
- In hospital settings, has a critical role in the area of discharge planning, ensuring that the services a patient will require are in place before the patient is discharged.
Who is a Medical Social Worker?
What does a Medical Social Worker do?
Medical Social Workers assist patients and their families with health-related problems and concerns. The Medical Social Worker performs a comprehensive assessment of a patient’s social, emotional, environmental, financial, and support needs and informs other members of the health care team about these factors, which may affect the patient’s health and well-being. Medical Social Workers work with the patient’s family or support systems as well as other service provider agencies to develop a plan for the care of the patient in his or her home or other living arrangement.
Patient counseling is an important part of the Medical Social Worker’s role. Medical Social Workers lead support group discussions, provide individual counseling, help patients determine appropriate health care and other health services, and provide support to patients with serious or chronic illnesses.
What education, training, and experience must one have to function as a Medical Social Worker?
How and by whom is a Medical Social Worker supervised?
What are the typical day-to-day activities of a Medical Social Worker?
The typical day-to-day activities of a Medical Social Worker vary considerably depending on the health care setting. In the hospital, the Medical Social Worker has a critical role in the area of discharge planning. It is the Medical Social Worker’s responsibility to ensure that the services the patient requires are in place in order to facilitate a timely discharge and ensure that the patient’s needs will be cared for at home.
The Medical Social Worker does a complete psychosocial assessment on all patients referred for social work services by the physician. After the assessment has been completed, the Medical Social Worker works with the patient, his or her family, and other health professionals to develop a discharge plan. When the doctor determines that the patient will be ready for discharge soon, it is the Medical Social Worker’s job to implement the plan by arranging for the home care services, coordinating transportation, working with the family to facilitate the discharge, and providing other appropriate services/referrals for the patient’s care at home.
Due to the high number of patients for whom the Medical Social Worker is responsible and the tight deadlines required to avoid delays in discharge, medical social work is a highly demanding job. In addition, the Medical Social Worker often is confronted with complex cases involving patients with multiple psychosocial issues.
Must a Medical Social Worker be licensed or certified to function in his or her role as part of the health care team?
Each state has different licensing, certification, or registration requirements regarding social work. Although standards for licensing vary, a growing number of states are placing greater emphasis on communication skills, professional ethics, and sensitivity to issues of cultural diversity. Most states require a certain amount of supervised clinical experience for licensure of clinical social workers. Although not required in order to practice, many health care agencies require Medical Social Workers to be licensed, and most insurance providers require a Medical Social Worker to be licensed in order to reimburse for services.
What types of patients would benefit from the care of a Medical Social Worker?
How and when does a Medical Social Worker become involved in the care of a particular patient?
Professional organizations for Medical Social Workers:
Nancy A. Morrow, MSW, School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania