Medical Social Workers

Medical Social Workers

Megan Malugani, Monster Contributing Writer

Medical social workers also need to be able to speak the language of their healthcare colleagues and their clients, Campbell says. “You need some knowledge of medical terminology, [because] doctors use a lot of abbreviations and medical terms,” she says. “You will oftentimes be the go-between between the physician and the patient, so you need to make things understandable in lay terms.” To improve her medical fluency, Campbell took some medical terminology courses early in her career.

Options for Specialization

Campbell and Walsh encourage those considering careers in medical social work to shadow someone in the field or volunteer in a hospital or hospice to gauge their comfort level working in such intense environments. Some healthcare facilities hire and train social workers with bachelor’s degrees, but most prefer applicants with a master’s in social work (MSW), Walsh says. Most MSW programs have healthcare tracks that include internships — called field placements — in healthcare settings.

Social work itself can lead in many directions, Campbell notes; however, even within the narrower field of medical social work, social workers can, through continuing education, specialize in areas such as oncology, mental health, substance abuse and acute intervention.

“Some medical social workers love a particular area and don’t want to do anything else,” Campbell says. “But many work in different areas throughout their careers, and that’s exciting.”

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