Healthcare Social Work is a branch of social work that encompasses the entire healthcare system, ranging from client work within medical settings to improving healthcare services and resources in communities.

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Areas within healthcare social work or related to healthcare social work

There are numerous jobs and settings available to social workers within the healthcare system.

Social workers are commonly found in inpatient hospital settings. These settings can include both medical and psychiatric settings. Examples of medical settings are oncology units, emergency departments, transplant units, pediatric units, and substance use detox centers. Social workers also play an integral role on inpatient psychiatric facilities.

In addition to acute inpatient settings, social workers also work in outpatient settings, such as primary care offices, clinics, and community health centers.

Social workers can also be found in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.

What do Healthcare Social Workers do?

Healthcare Social Workers have become a vital component of the healthcare system. On a micro level, social workers are essential in providing support for patients and their families, coordinating care, and managing crisis situations. Social workers are also crucial in advocating for more accessible healthcare for vulnerable populations.

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The specific tasks of healthcare social workers vary by job and setting. However, healthcare social workers are commonly responsible for:

  • providing emotional support for patients and their families, which includes psychosocial support in coping with illness and acute crises
  • coordinating additional services and needed resources upon discharge, such as food, housing, and transportation
  • acting as a liaison between patients, families, and medical staff
  • providing brief and time effective treatment, if applicable
  • supporting other staff in managing crises
  • macro and/or mezzo level work with public health to improve health and healthcare within communities

Navigating the healthcare system can be confusing and overwhelming, especially during a time of crisis. Social workers support everyone involved with a patient in managing the crisis that is occurring, instilling hope, and logically preparing for the next steps.

Healthcare Social Work Career Options

There are numerous career options for healthcare social workers. These careers can include work at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Additionally, careers range from working with infants and new mothers to providing support for patients in hospice.

Some examples of healthcare social work careers include:

  • Social worker at a children’s hospital
  • Clinical social worker at an inpatient psychiatric facility
  • A substance use counselor as a substance use detox center
  • A hospice social worker