5 Duties of a Director of Social Work at a Nursing Home

5 Primary Tasks of Nursing Home Directors of Social Work

  • Advocacy
  • End-of-Life Planning
  • Mental Health Care
  • Staff Management
  • Administrative Duties

The job duties of a director of social work at a retirement home cover many different areas. Directors must blend compassionate care for patients and families with strong organizational and management skills. Not every social worker has the right personality to enjoy work as a director, but for some, it’s the perfect job.


One of the primary duties for a director of social work at a nursing facility is patient advocacy. Overworked nurses and off-site doctors don’t have the time or expertise to focus on patient needs. There are medications to dispense, charts to complete and medical tasks that must be performed. The social work director can create policies to help busy medical professionals keep patient comfort in the forefront. For example, a director might suggest using pet or art therapy services, recruiting volunteers to entertain residents or remind nursing staff to protect patient privacy.

End-of-Life Planning

Most residents at a nursing home will not return to a private residence. This means social work directors need to have difficult conversations with residents and family members about end-of-life care decisions. Some patients may want to receive every treatment possible to ensure a long life, while others may want to focus on comfort over longevity. According to the National Institute on Aging, it’s best to make plans for end-of-life care before the plans become necessary. While these discussions can be hard, they ultimately reduce stress on patients and families when difficult decisions need to be made.

Mental Health Care

Directors in the social work field are often practitioners as well as administrators. At smaller facilities, most directors are required to provide some clinical services as part of their job duties, so students who want to work as directors of social work at small- or mid-sized retirement homes should pursue a master’s of social work (MSW) with a focus in counseling to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Directors should be prepared to provide counseling services to patients and families. Experience with geriatric mental health services and a license to practice clinical social work are helpful for this field.

Staff Management

Most directors have a staff of social workers in their department and must fulfill management duties. This can include employee development, scheduling and hiring. It might mean setting departmental policies for how many hours each worker must spend providing direct services or advocating for the funds to hire an additional therapist. Some directors have assistant directors who must be trained and supervised. Directors must also decide on the best policy for deciding which social workers must be on-call, or available to take emergency requests in the evening or weekend. This policy can prove contentious with staff, so a good leader must be prepared to explain their decisions to workers.

Administrative Duties

Of course, directors of social work must be prepared to spend part of each workweek on administrative duties. Because nursing home services can be so costly, the majority of patients receive insurance coverage from private companies and public Medicare options. Working with insurance companies means piles of paperworks, and social workers aren’t immune from those requirements. Directors are responsible for ensuring their unit is generating enough revenue and appropriately billing for services. Directors must also ensure that each employee has met educational and licensing requirements and is staying up-to-date with state and federal requirements for social workers.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Social Work Degree Programs

The best way to enter this field is to earn an MSW with a concentration in leadership or management. This educational background will give students the social work ethics and management skills necessary to succeed at the job duties of a director of social work at a nursing home.