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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
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A social worker provides people in need with information about available social services.

Social workers can help you through the practical and emotional issues that may arise after a diagnosis.

Social workers tend to specialize in a particular area. Specialties most helpful after a diagnosis are "Medical and Public Health Social Workers" and "Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers."

Social workers have to at least be college graduates in order to satisfy the licensing or other requirements of all states and the District of Columbia. Some social workers also have Masters or even PhD degrees.

While social workers generally work in a hospital or other institution, some social workers work on their own ("privately"). Social Workers who work for a hospital etc are paid by the institution for which they work. Private social workers are paid by the client or a health insurer.

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What Social Workers Do

Social workers assist people by helping them cope with issues in their everyday lives, deal with their relationships, and solve personal and family problems.

There are a variety of social workers. Two types work with people with life changing health conditions: Medical and Public Health Social Workers, and Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers.

Medical and public health social workers do the following:

  • Provide psychosocial support to people, families, or vulnerable populations so they can cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses, such as Alzheimer's disease, cancer, or AIDS.
  • Helps the patient, family and caregivers reorganize and adjust to new, possibly changing, needs
  • Counsel patients.
  • Help plan for patients' needs after discharge from hospitals.
  • Arrange for at-home services, such as meals-on-wheels or home care.
  • Work on interdisciplinary teams that evaluate certain kinds of patients'"geriatric or organ transplant patients, for example.

Medical and public health social workers may work for hospitals, nursing and personal care facilities, individual and family services agencies, local governments or on their own.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers (also known as "Clinical Social Workers")

In general, mental health and substance abuse social workers provide services similar to those provided by psychologists and psychologists. For instance, mental health social workers:

  • Assess and treat people who experience difficulty coping with emotions relating to a diagnosis of a serious health condition.
  • Assess and treat individuals with mental illness or substance abuse problems, including abuse of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. Such services include individual and group therapy, outreach, crisis intervention, social rehabilitation, and teaching skills needed for everyday living.
  • Help plan for supportive services to ease clients' return to the community.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers are likely to work in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, individual and family services agencies, or local governments.

Social Worker Training And Other Qualifications

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the occupation. Many positions require an advanced degree. All States and the District of Columbia have some licensure, certification, or registration requirement, but the regulations vary.

A bachelor's degree in social work (BSW) is the most common minimum requirement to qualify for a job as a social worker. Majors in psychology, sociology, and related fields may qualify for some entry-level jobs, especially in small community agencies.

Although a bachelor's degree is sufficient for entry into the field, an advanced degree has become the standard for many positions. A master's degree in social work (MSW) is typically required for positions in health settings and is required for clinical work as well.

The National Association of Social Workers ( offsite link) offers voluntary credentials. Social workers with a master's degree in social work may be eligible for one of the following credentials based on their professional experience: Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), the Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW).

Credentials are particularly important for social workers who have a private practice. Some health insurers require social workers to have specific credentials in order to be reimbursed for services.

How To Find A Social Worker

You can find a licensed social worker by zip code, specialty, and whether they take you insurance at the web site operated by the National Association of Social Workers: