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Social work professionals help individuals, couples and families cope with the social, psychological, cultural and medical issues resulting from an illness. Professionals in social work also help patients fully utilize medical care and services by:
- Explaining health care resources and policies to patients, family and professional staff
- Helping plan for post-hospital patient needs by arranging for services at another facility or in the home
- Explaining to patients the epidemiology of diseases, including social environment risk factors
- Helping patients and families receive needed follow-up care by referral to health care resources
- Understanding the social, cultural and religious variables that contribute to patients' responses to illness and their use of health care resources
- Providing advocacy through appropriate organizations
Social workers may help patients with advance directives and other long-term care issues. They assure that patients' medically related emotional and social needs are met and maintained throughout their medical treatment.
Social work professionals work in health care settings that include hospital social workers, health care administration, employee assistance programs and health maintenance organizations (HMOs).
Social workers are employed in hospitals, outpatient medical facilities, hospices, rehabilitation facilities, physician group practices, skilled nursing facilities, nursing homes and home health agencies.
Employment of social workers is expected to grow faster than average, increasing by nearly 25 percent a year. The number of older people who are likely to need social services is rapidly growing.
Nationally, salaries for social workers vary depending on the employer and geographic location. On average, social workers earn approximately $50,000 a year. Salaries are competitive with other professions that require similar levels of education.