Home Mental Health & Well-Being Social Work in Different Settings: Schools, Hospitals, and Beyond

Social Work in Different Settings: Schools, Hospitals, and Beyond

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The practice of social work varies depending on the setting, and the same goes for the regulations and licence requirements. For example, New York social work licensure is different from California, New Jersey, and other places across the US. So if you’re studying to become a social worker, make sure you familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for LCSW licensure in your State.

Are you interested in learning more about social work in different settings? Stay with us as we discuss.

Social work in schools

As a social worker in a school, you are predominantly responsible for the emotional welfare of students. A large component of your role will centre around goal-setting with students, both in real-time and later in life. Helping students combat anxiety around their studies, exams, and assessments will be a big part of this. You will also play a crucial role in helping students decide on the direction they want their lives to take when they complete their studies, acting as a sort of guidance counsellor. 

A school social worker also plays an integral part in supporting the mental well-being of students as they navigate growing older. Some students may be experiencing bullying or discrimination. School social workers can help students navigate and work through this trauma, as well as develop coping strategies. Students may also require emotional support for trauma experienced outside of school grounds – at home, for instance, where they may be going through difficulties with their families, or come from broken homes. These issues can impact a child’s ability to focus on their studies and impair their educational outcomes. As a school social worker, it’s your job to help students overcome them.

Social work in hospitals

Social workers also play an integral role in hospitals, particularly in palliative care units, for instance. In these settings, a social worker will support and assist terminally ill patients, and their families as they are placed into end-of-life care. The goal? To help maximise the patient’s quality of life, and retain their dignity for as long as possible, as well as instill a sense of acceptance and peace in them as they reach the end. The objective is to help the patient feel as comfortable, loved, and cared for as possible at the end of their lives.

Terminally ill patients may also be in a great deal of physical pain. Social workers can help provide a distraction, and take their mind off their physicality – even just for a moment. They can also help patients advocate for themselves; in the case of hospice social worker Lizzy Miles, she often discovered that a patient had not disclosed the severity of their pain to a nurse, or asked for pain-killing medication when they needed it. For this reason, she believes that pain assessment is another central element of hospice social work, in addition to providing emotional support.

Social work in prisons and correctional facilities

Becoming a correctional social worker can be arguably one of the most confronting career paths. Their role is to visit incarcerated individuals in prisons and correctional facilities and to provide them with emotional support and counselling, often in group settings. A key component of this is helping inmates navigate prison life and how to deal with incarceration.

Just like a guidance counsellor, a social worker in a correctional facility can also support inmates in deciding what they want life to look like on the outside. That is to say, when released from prison, what goals do they want to achieve? A social worker can help them reconnect with their community, and they can even find work and housing once they get out.

Social work in foreign aid

Social work in foreign aid involves providing international aid, relief, and humanitarian assistance to communities in need. Often, an international social worker will travel and base themselves in developing, third-world nations to carry out their work. In this sense, they could be putting themselves in grave danger, particularly if the site in question is a war zone.

Ultimately, foreign aid social workers, like many other types of social workers, are driven by a noble cause: their objective is to help others in need.




Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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