Can You Work In A Nursing Home With A Social Work Degree?

Nursing Home Social WorkProfessionals who work in a nursing home with a social work degree provide vital services to senior citizens and their families. Working closely with other nursing home staff, family members and the seniors themselves, they use their skills to look out for residents’ mental, emotional, financial and physical health.

Federal Requirements for Social Workers in Nursing Homes

In the United States, federal law requires all nursing homes with more than 120 beds to have a full-time social work professional on the facility’s staff. As the Social Work Policy Institute explains, the law insists that this person should have qualifications comparable to at least a bachelor’s degree in social work. Smaller facilities do not have to have a social worker as part of their organization’s team, but they are still expected to provide social services. The institute reports that a national study of social service directors at nursing homes revealed that more than 60 percent held bachelor’s degrees and 35 percent held master’s degrees. Most held their degrees in social work, although psychology, counseling and gerontology were also listed. The job can be a heavy responsibility; on average, nursing home social workers care for nearly 100 patients. Approximately 30 percent are the only social worker on their facility’s staff.

Responsibilities for Social Workers in Nursing Homes

Social workers in nursing homes work diligently to foster connections. The Journal of American Medical Directors Association points out that social workers participate in patient care plan meetings and help coordinate services for residents. This may mean working with facility staff, insurance companies, doctor’s offices, government agencies and community organizations to find appropriate services for patients entering the nursing home, residing in the facility or transferring to home. Social workers talk with the residents and their families to assess each senior’s needs and how those needs can best be meant. They also work to resolve complaints about roommates, staff members or the facility itself and watch for any signs of abuse. Social workers may be called on to train other staff about issues like sexual harassment, residents’ rights and abuse. They also provide patient care and support themselves by offering screening programs and information about future planning in terms of documents like living wills and do not resuscitate orders. Social workers supply support during transitional periods and guide patients and their families through the emotional and physical hurdles presented by dementia, depression, behavioral issues and other forms of disease.

Opportunities for Social Workers in Nursing Homes

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, there were nearly 35 million seniors age 65 or older in 2000. By 2030, that number is projected to more than double to 72 million. As these seniors begin to require care from nursing homes and similar facilities, social workers will be needed to help them and their families navigate the complex system. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that opportunities for social workers will grow by nearly 20 percent in the next decade.

Related Resource: Clinical Social Workers

The increasing needs of the United States’ aging population mean more and more senior citizens will require assistance navigating the complex mix of medical, governmental and community programs in order to get the services they need. Aspiring social workers will find plenty of opportunities to work in a nursing home with a social work degree.