All about the fitness and health lifestyle
All about the fitness and health lifestyle

Role of Social Workers in Improving Healthcare

Last Updated:
January 2, 2023
Kay Nicole

Role of Social Workers in Improving Healthcare

A social worker’s role is relevant in many industries to empower the most vulnerable in society. This role has slowly become all the more important in the healthcare system, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration of social workers with the health institutes is crucial as they represent the patient's side. They work with doctors to determine healthcare plans for patients according to their social and financial situations.

Health disasters pose a risk to many communities and while doctors and nurses ensure people are treated, the intervention of a social worker ensures that patients get the best treatment plans. If you're considering applying to study social work, especially in the healthcare sector, the following reasons will help you make that decision faster.

What do medical social workers do?

There are different roles a social worker can play in healthcare, including advanced care planning, risk management, problem-solving, and policy-making while being well-versed in the medical field to deal on a case-by-case basis. A medical social worker identifies environmental factors that affect a person's health and provides awareness to deal with many physical and mental health issues.

However, one person cannot deal with such diverse responsibilities, which is why there are social work specializations that help each person handle their specific job. For instance, one social work professional can take care of the health management aspect of the job while other can take over the financial aspects to help the patient. Of course, as a medical social worker, you will deal with a host of unique needs of your clients and design a care plan according to the specified illnesses.

Here’s a detailed look into the responsibilities of social workers in medicine that improve healthcare for patients.

Assessment of Patient’s Needs

One of the medical social workers' biggest responsibilities is to assess their client's physical and mental needs. It can take some time to figure out what works best for them. For this, social workers must know the details of their client’s illness, their backgrounds and the community they are surrounded with.

Knowing a client’s background is key to their social and financial situations. It helps the social worker devise a plan taking the client’s situation and their caregiver’s advice into consideration. They keep in touch with the healthcare professionals and the patient’s family to get them the best treatment.

Patient Advocacy

A social worker’s first duty is to advocate for their patient/client. They ensure that all their clients' reasonable needs are met and their wishes are respected. A medical social worker’s job is to act as a medium for communication between healthcare providers and the client.

Moreover, if the client needs assistance regarding health insurance, it is the social worker’s job to empower them with the necessary knowledge and help them find a perfect plan.


A medical social worker is trained in counseling, especially in healthcare settings, to empower the patient, provide confidentiality, and identify resources for help. A research paper on medical healthcare during COVID-19 found that medical social workers used their counseling skills to help clients deal with the emotional and social consequences of the pandemic.

They can provide counseling sessions to help patients cope with the treatments. If support groups are helpful in this scenario, social workers are equipped with the skills to arrange those. Furthermore, social workers also educate the clients and their families on community resources, health insurance coverage, and what they are entitled to from the government.

Financial Planning

More often than not, medical procedures, checkups, or tests can cost a small fortune. A social worker is aware of their client’s financial status. Therefore, can help them get the treatment with the least financial stress involved.

Social workers refer the client and their family to community resources, medical loan companies, financial assistance plans, etc. This allows the family to focus on their loved one's well-being.

Discharge Planning

When the client is ready to be discharged from the hospital, a social worker handles the discharge to ensure that anything the patient requires post-discharge is already taken care of. For example, if the patient underwent significant surgery and requires assistance at home, has an arrangement already been made? It is the social worker’s job to coordinate with the family on the client's behalf.

It is also the social worker’s job to arrange resources to pay for medicines or any equipment needed post-discharge. If any support groups or healthcare service providers can help the client, it is the social worker’s job to arrange it.

Patient Intake Screening

A medical social worker is in charge of screening patients to document their history of physical or mental illnesses. Especially those considered high-risk. This screening allows workers to identify those needing extra attention. Thus, they can complete a comprehensive assessment of their client's social and financial situations.

Having this screening on record also helps healthcare professionals easily identify the problem and the probable treatment plan.

How to become a medical social worker?

Social workers are very important in the healthcare sector. In fact, they are part of a team of care providers who work to empower patients. To become a medical social worker, you must earn a Master of Social Work to find jobs within the sector easily. There are very few positions for those who haven't earned a degree in social work, as it is slowly becoming a requirement to enter the field.

You will need at least 900 hours worth of social work internship to qualify for a job. You'll also need a license in the state you wish to practice in. The requirement for licensing varies by state but, at minimum, requires supervised work experience.

You can obtain certifications while interning to become a social worker. While these are not a requirement, they are an advantage over other candidates during the selection process.


The job of a medical social worker is an important one. As such, they are key players in the healthcare system. They address the psychosocial needs of their clients and communicate them to health professionals.

Most medical social workers are concentrated in hospitals. But, some work with other outpatient medical facilities and clinics. Medical social workers can also find jobs in rehabilitation centers, care centers, managed care organizations, etc.  They just need the right credentials and a social work license.

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