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A career as a healthcare social worker is perfect for those who enjoy helping other people in times of distress, crises, and uncertainty. Healthcare social work is a specialty within the social work field. The social worker helps people to access services and education related to health problems. The goal is to have the client achieve and maintain a state of optimal health so they can function in their daily lives. The social worker acts as a client advocate, educator, coordinator of care, adviser, and strives to preserve the healthcare and dignity of the population they serve.
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A healthcare social worker takes on a variety of tasks depending on the environment in which they choose to work. They work with people who have chronic and acute healthcare needs such as HIV, diabetes, heart conditions, and trauma. They work in clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living, mental health, and other health care settings as well.
In the hospital, they help clients plan their discharge home. They coordinate services such as home health care, medical equipment rentals, transportation to follow up doctor visits and other related activities. They will help clients get admitted to inpatient and outpatient services, find funding sources, fill out paperwork, and find support resources for families. They assist with educational classes on things such as childcare, Alzheimer’s management, living with cancer, and HIV. They are concerned with all components of health and mental health care. They also participate in and advise on healthcare policy, services, and legislative issues.
Social workers need to have or develop a specific skill set. One of the most valuable skills a social worker could have is the ability to listen. They must be able to listen to their clients and determine what types of help the client needs. This can be difficult since most people do not know what they need or what types of health services are available. Other desirable skills include patience, critical thinking, complex problem solving, and organization. The focus of this job is to help people who do not know where to find help. The social worker helps them organize their healthcare needs and find ways to meet those needs.
The first step to becoming a healthcare social worker is to get a Bachelor’s in Social Work, known as a BSW. This is the entry-level educational requirement for the social work field. The BSW can work in the healthcare field in numerous environments including hospitals, home health, and health departments. It is an excellent way to begin learning the specifics of the healthcare world.
A master’s degree is required to specialize as a healthcare social worker. Many healthcare specialists work on their master’s degrees part-time. This allows them to earn a living wage while pursuing the higher degree. Employers often offer tuition assistance for those doing so.
After obtaining a MSW, the professional social worker can begin working toward their certification in healthcare. Certification is not required, but it can help achieve top-level positions and pay. To become certified, the candidate must have 2 years of experience working at a master’s degree level, have 20 hours of continuing education, and take a certification examination given by the National Association of Social Workers. The certification lets employers and clients know that this person has achieved the highest level of training and education in the specialty of healthcare services.
Although most social workers work in an office, they may spend a lot of time away from the office visiting clients. School social workers may be assigned to multiple schools and travel around the school district to see students. Understaffing and large case loads may make the work stressful.