Medical Social Worker Job Description

A Medical Social Worker, also known as a Healthcare Social Worker, works in areas of care management and assists patients and families in understanding patient conditions and treatments. They can help patients and family members develop coping strategies, assess patient needs, assist in the development of treatment plans and provide emotional and mental assessments on the patient. Medical Social Workers can also offer bereavement counseling, assist with patient discharge and handle the arrangement of in-home care services.

Medical Social Workers can be employed in hospitals, hospices, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and assisted living centers. Employment in this field is expected to grow 19 percent over the 2014-2024 decade, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. An aging population and improvements in healthcare treatments and services are among the chief contributors to this projected job growth rate.


Medical Social Worker Duties and Responsibilities

A Medical Social Worker is responsible for handling several tasks in order to provide the best service to patients. We have reviewed several job listings and found the following among the core Medical Social Worker duties and responsibilities.

Provide Support to Patients

The main role of a Medical Social Worker is to help patients understand, cope with and treat their condition. To this end, Medical Social Workers will counsel patients about their illness or disease, participate in treatment plan development, arrange for in-home care personnel and equipment and assist in the scheduling of follow-up visits. They will also ensure that patients are adhering to treatment plan and medical recommendations.

Educate and Counsel Families

It is just as important to provide support to families of patients, and Medical Social Workers are involved in helping families understand the illness or condition that a patient has been diagnosed with and offer counseling to reduce stress and cope with the needs of the patient. Medical Social Workers will assist in all decision making processes relating to the care of the patient and make referrals as needed. They also offer grief counseling services to families.

Assist in Obtaining Various Healthcare Services

A Medical Social Worker is typically involved in helping patients work with health insurance companies, community health agencies, transportation services and financial assistance programs. They will help to determine what benefits patients are eligible for and assist in filling out necessary paperwork, such as health insurance forms.


Medical Social Worker Skills

Strong oral and written communication, organizational and problem solving skills are essential for Medical Social Workers. They should be detail- and goal-oriented individuals who possess the ability to work independently and also collaborate with various healthcare representatives and agencies. In addition to these general skills, a Medical Social Worker could be expected by potential employers to possess the following skills.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Medical Social Workers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Medical Social Worker, focus on the following.

  • Communicating with doctors, nurses, home health companies and other healthcare personnel and agencies
  • Coordinating healthcare services
  • Understanding various medical conditions and terminology
  • Evaluating the mental, emotional and physical status of patients
  • Providing bereavement counseling services to families
  • Possessing Social Worker state licensure

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Medical Social Worker toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Understand federal, state and local healthcare standards and regulations
  • Proficiency in basic computer applications, such as Microsoft Office applications


Medical Social Worker Resources

It is beneficial to conduct additional research if you are considering a career as a Medical Social Worker. Below, we have provided links to online and print resources about this career.

On the Web

Social Work Today – An online publication offering articles for all types of social workers, including those working in health care and mental health.

The Social Work Podcast – A blog focusing on interviews with those working as Clinical or Medical Social Workers.

Social Work Career – A website offering blogs in various areas of social work, including healthcare. Blog topics address therapeutic approaches, emotions and mental health.

Industry Groups

Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) – Spawning from the Clinical Social Work Federation, CSWA offers professional support and services to new and existing Medical Social Workers. CSWA provides online articles, legislative news and clinical information.

Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) – An organization providing support and resources for Medical Social Workers. Offers an online journal, conferences, a mentorship program and continuing education opportunities.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW) – NASW provides professional support to 132,000 members worldwide. NASW has professional development opportunities, credential information, online tools and access to online and print publications that are useful to all types of social workers, including Medical Social Workers.


Hospital Social Work: The Interface of Medicine and Caring 1st Edition – Crafted from interviews with over 100 Medical Social Workers, this book offers an insight into the daily functions and roles of this career.

The Changing Face of Health Care Social Work, Third Edition: Opportunities and Challenges for Professional Practice – An extensive book that explores all aspects of medical social work, covering best practices in various health care settings and in working with various types of patients.

Where to Start and What to Ask: An Assessment Handbook 1st Edition – Written by an experienced Medical Social Worker, this book discusses tools and approaches to assessing patients for healthcare social work purposes.


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