Duties of Medical Social Workers


Medical social workers is a very challenging and rewarding work. By assisting patients to cater for the healthcare facilities and work towards their wellness, you can feel the best about the job you are doing every single day working for a hospital or medical office. Although no two duties in medical social work are the same, below are five known duties you’ll likely be assigned at some point in your profession.

Patient Advocacy

Oftentimes, you must stand up for your patients and advocate for their rights to culturally appropriate healthcare. This may mean pointing out that a patient troubles with literacy, financial incapability or transportation needs and working with the patient’s medical team to overcome these delemma. Doctors are often discourage by patients who do not follow medical orders, but you can assist medical workers understand the hindrances your patients is facing.

Mental Health Services

In many healthcare teams, social workers provide mental health assessment and counseling. Rather than call in a psychiatrist from outside of the hospital, doctors may ask a social worker with a master’s of social work (MSW) degree to assess a patient’s mental well-being. You can serve as a critical first step in connecting your patients to mental healthcare services by deciding if formal psychiatric care is needed. You may also give on-the-spot counseling for patients struggling with an active mental illness or mental disability as well as family members, patients and even staff who simply need a supporting presence.

Patient Education

One of the biggest impacts you can have as a hospital-based social worker is by providing patient education. Numerous studies have shown that educated patients have better outcomes, but nurses and doctors often struggle with heavy case loads that prevent them from spending enough time with every patient. You can help patients understand their discharge paperwork, ensure they know how to obtain and use their medications and explain the importance of follow-up visits. You can also connect patients with the additional resources they need to be healthy once they leave the hospital.

Community Organization

Patients often experience self-esteem issues when undergoing treatment. For example, cancer patients may need to actively work to rebuild their self-image after chemotherapy and other treatments. As a medical social worker, you can organize and lead peer groups for patients dealing with the side effects of visiting the hospital. This could be a recovery group for women with cancer, a support group for new parents or a socialization group for parents of children with chronic illnesses. As a social worker in a medical setting, you can help these visitors build vital social connections, improve their mental health and deepen their understanding of the medical process.

Macro-level Interventions

A master’s in social work degree splits its focus between macro- and micro-level skills, so you’ll graduate with the policy and organizational background to lead changes at the community level. To promote health in your neighborhood, you might partner with a local farmer’s market to increase access to fresh produce, convince the busing agency to create more routes to your healthcare facility or work with your school board to promote healthy activities for children. Big picture items can affect hundreds or thousands of patients and highlight your employer’s commitment to community-level development.

In this field, you’ll help new patients every day with small issues like finding a ride home or large challenges like finding food to put on the table. With the high level of variety and personal fulfillment, it’s easy to see why medical social workers love their jobs.

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