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Healthcare Social Worker: Education and Career Information

There are a number of terms used for healthcare social worker, such as clinical social worker and medical social worker. This is a great career path for those who enjoy working with people and lending a helping hand in the healthcare setting. A healthcare social worker aids in helping clients get the education and resources they need to function day-to-day throughout a health crisis. They also serve as an advocate, coordinator of care and advisor whenever needed. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, these positions are more important than ever. It can be a very nice career path with rewards that extend beyond financial compensation. For those who want to work in healthcare, but do not wish to seek positions of direct medical care, this may be a good choice for you.

What does a healthcare social worker do?

Healthcare social workers specialize in helping patients and outpatient clients meet certain needs. These needs can range from emotional and social, to financial. They can be classified as case managers, patient advocates or even therapists on occasion. You can find them in hospitals, medical facilities and outpatient service centers. Healthcare social workers also work in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. Healthcare social workers should have some knowledge of medical procedures and treatment methods, as well as being able to clearly communicate with patients, their families, other medical professionals and agencies.

They work closely with a diverse group of individuals, and are adept at assessing the needs of patients and their families. Healthcare social workers also work with patients and their families during post-treatment to ensure everything is operating as it should, or to provide additional resources if needed. Because of the nature of their position, they are frequently on the road visiting clients and meeting with the pertinent people who can assist in providing needed services.

How much does a healthcare social worker earn?

The salary of this field changes based on a number of factors. In general, healthcare social workers have a median salary of $48,620, which can exponentially increase based on location, licensure, education and experience. The Workforce Center of NASW reports a median salary of $40,100 for those with bachelor’s degrees working in hospital settings, and a median salary of $60,000 for those with master’s degrees. The outlook for jobs in this field is growing, with a projected 35% gain in the field between 2012 and 2022.

What type of skills are required to be a healthcare social worker?

A healthcare social worker needs to have a variety of skills to be successful in this position:

Communication: A healthcare social worker must be able to communicate with a variety of individuals on different levels to obtain the information they need. They should be able to speak clearly, convey information and work rationally toward solving problems.

Organization: Due to the many resources they utilize and the number of clients they serve, healthcare social workers must be highly organized and efficient. They should be able to retrieve information quickly and dispense information on resources just as fast.

Empathy: When patients and clients are in need, they need someone who will understand their dilemma. Healthcare social workers must have a strong sense of empathy and caring for others to work successfully in this field.

Listening: One of the most important skills a healthcare social work must have is the ability to listen. They must be able to hear the frustration and dilemmas, and filter through loads of information from a variety of individuals to extract what they need to get the job done.

Assertiveness: Working with multiple healthcare professionals and agencies can be frustrating. They must be assertive enough to convey their wishes and get the information and resources they need for the clients in a timely, yet professional manner.

Assessment: Being able to listen to patients, look at their circumstances and survey their financial situations should come as second nature to a healthcare social worker. They must be able to quickly assess needs, even if they are not verbalized. This is one of the most crucial elements of being a successful healthcare social worker – helping others even when they don’t realize they need it.

Internship Requirements

This is a highly specialized position, so clinical internships are required to be able to successfully get the job done. The time required for internships varies based on the educational program, but fieldwork is mandatory.

Educational Requirements

The educational requirements for this type position are rigorous. You must have a master’s degree in most cases, but there are some positions that only require a bachelor’s degree. With a bachelor’s, the opportunities for career advancement will be limited. There are a number of online programs that will assist in getting the education needed to become a healthcare social worker. Concentrating your coursework on clinical social work is recommended. There are also certificate programs available that will further the educational specializations available for career advancement.

The University of Southern California School of Social Work offers an online Master’s of Social Work, which is accredited and needed for licensure. In order to become licensed, there are a number of licensing exams that must be taken and passed. To obtain the highest license available, a healthcare social worker must already be working in the field for at least two to three years with supervision prior to being eligible for this licensure after passing the exam.

•Coursework includes:
•Social Work Practice with Individuals
•Social Work Practice with Families
•Groups and Complex Cases
•Integrative Learning for Social Work Practice
•Social Welfare
•Advanced Theories and Clinical Interventions in Health Care
•Program Planning and Evaluation in Health Care
•Social Policy in the Health Care Sector

There are a number of additional certifications offered by the National Association of Social Workers like the Certified Social Work in Health Care certificate, awarded to those individuals who have over two years of relevant postmaster’s degree supervised experience and have completed at least 20 contact hours of continuing education.

While this may seem like a lot of educational requirements, it will be well worth the time and effort. If taking care of individuals and helping them get the resources they need is something that interests you, becoming a healthcare social worker may be the career path for you.

Social Work Scholarships

Presbyterian Church USA Student Opportunity Scholarships Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship Jewish Community Center (JCC) North American Graduate Scholarship
Consuelo W. Gosnell Memorial Scholarship CSWE Scholars Program American Board of Examiners in Clinical Social Work
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund The Leopold Schepp Foundation National Association of Puerto Rican Hispanic Social Workers
UJA Federation – The Weiner Educational Center Bethesda Lutheran Communities Service Scholarship Maryland Graduate and Professional School Scholarship
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Quick Fact
In 2017, workers with a bachelor's degree or higher had almost twice as much
median earnings per week than workers with only a high school diploma*.
*Bureau of Labor Statistics

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