Social Work Careers to Consider: Medical Social Work

If you’re interested in helping those who are sick or suffering from chronic illness, you might want to consider a career in medical social work. Medical social workers help their clients address the challenges of illness, such as navigating the health care system, discussing treatment options, and working with an interdisciplinary medical team to coordinate the best possible care. 

Where Do Medical Social Workers Work?

Medical social workers can be found in many different environments where medical care is offered. Most commonly, they work in hospitals or other medical centers where a large number of patients receive treatment. 

You may also find medical social workers providing care at community health centers, nursing care facilities, school nursing offices, and outpatient facilities.

What Do Medical Social Workers Do?

Medical social workers help clients navigate today’s multidimensional and complex health care landscape and guide them to the resources they need. They serve as an advocate to ensure their clients receive the treatment they want and recover physically and mentally. 

Specifically, medical social workers:

  • Discuss medical treatment options with patients and their families and then explain the side effects and consequences of different treatments.
  • Work in an interdisciplinary team consisting of nurses, doctors, physical or speech therapists, and others to coordinate the course of care for their clients.
  • Manage and address the mental health effects of disease and treatment on patients and their families.
  • Provide patient counseling individually or in a group setting for clients dealing with a wide range of medical issues.
  • Work with administrative staff and insurance agencies to help patients fill out appropriate forms and arrange payment for their treatments.

Who Do They Work With?

Medical social workers’ main focus is their clients. This can be anyone suffering from terminal, chronic, or other types of illnesses. In order to best serve their clients, medical social workers work with doctors, nurses, and other medical staff to gather information for their client or to relay their client’s wishes. Medical professionals often focus on only the physical health of the patient, but social workers focus on the root causes of their illness and the mental health consequences. As a result, medical social workers often work to improve communication between different medical care providers in order to provide a holistic approach to patient care. 

Medical social workers are a necessary element in the health care system. Those who choose medical social work are the support system for families and individuals through some of life’s toughest – and most important – challenges. To become a medical social worker, most candidates are required to hold a Master of Social Work (MSW) from a Council on Social Work Education-accredited university. The MSW@USC is an accredited online MSW program through the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work that can provide the education required for those interested in entering the field of medical social work. Learn more about the MSW@USC student experience here.

Source: Social Workers in Hospitals & Medical Centers: Occupational Profile.