NASW updates Standards of Social Work Practice in Health Care Settings

The new NASW standards reflect some of the changes in heath care social work in the Affordable Care Act era. Photo courtesy of Tufts Medical Center.

The new NASW standards reflect some of the changes in heath care social work in the Affordable Care Act era. Photo courtesy of Tufts Medical Center.

An updated version of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Standards for Social Work Practice in Health Care Settings has been released and is available online or for purchase through the NASW Press.

It is a resource based on the consensus of expert health care social workers and is designed to enhance social workers’ knowledge to work effectively in health care settings in the Affordable Care Act era.  In the current health care environment, social workers have found new roles in a range of health care settings and greater recognition of the value that social work brings to address systemic health inequities.

The NASW Health Care Standards highlight:

  • Social work responsibilities in the context of new health care delivery models
  • The social determinants of health and health disparities
  • The importance of cross-cultural knowledge and facilitation of culturally and linguistically appropriate care
  • Working in interprofessional teams and integrated care settings
  • Engaging in quality improvement and evaluation activities
  • Employing evidence-informed interventions
  • Advocating for appropriate workloads

For more information contact NASW Senior Practice Associate Carrie Dorn at



  1. Has the link changed? I am unable to open it.

    Thank you,

    • Good afternoon Ashley. NASW switched to a revised website. We are working to fix broken links and hope to have the standards up soon.

  2. Finally! I was able to download and review the new Standards! They are extremely well-written and call for our profession to quantify our outcomes to support our presence in the healthcare setting. Well done, NASW!!!!

  3. Charles Henderson

    There is a constant decline in social workers who advocate for clients because of the strict policies that are in place in most environments, including state and local organizations. The average social worker now has to conform with organizational policies that tie them to organization versus Board of Social Work Standards and in the end the client suffers. Timelines, quotas, salary, documentation are the elements that comprise the starting point of most organizational policy standards. It is certainly time for a social worker to be able to perform social work without worrying about losing their jobs because of these barriers.

  4. I was unable to download the updated PDF, so sorry. I have worked in the hospital setting for the past 12.25 years in the Quality/Performance Improvement arena. I am also a seasoned Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has served as a NASW Chapter President and SSWLHC Chapter President. As such, I have witnessed a steady decline in the number of professional Social Workers in healthcare, often trumped by RNs who have demonstrated equal outcomes in the work previously performed by professional Social Workers. Worse, “similarly-degreed” personnel demonstrate the same outcomes.

    However, Clinical Social Workers are a growing number of Performance Improvement professionals in the healthcare arena. Our group facilitation skills enable us to facilitate improvement teams and optimize their time accordingly. The statistical knowledge needed for this job is taught as part of additional certification in this field. As such, we Clinical Social Workers are helping to improve healthcare through facilitating interdisciplinary teams to prevent hospital readmissions, reduce infections, improve quality care, enhance patient safety, mitigate risk/medical errors, improve the patient-centered experience….and more!

  5. As a seasoned social worker in a health care setting I have always respected and practiced according to the ethics and standards of our field. Unfortunately, the health care setting is often a difficult place to truly advocate and challenge policies that are incongruent with our standards. Many medical social workers are seen as “trouble makers” when speaking up for the needs of patients and their families as most management positions in health care settings are comprised of nurses and health care administrators. I believe that it will be difficult to truly adhere to the standards until there are more roles for social workers in leadership roles within health care systems.

    • Ms. Alejo:

      Thanks for sending this comment. We will share them with the team that revised the health care standards.

      Greg Wright
      NASW Public Relations Manager

    • Greetings, I’m a medical social worker and have been trying to access this new PDF since you posted it on Facebook. I let whoever moderates the FB site know that there has been trouble accessing the PDF and I’m not sure what action is being taken – I still cannot unfortunately access it now, even through the link provided above. I’m looking forward to reading it. * Also, I second the comments posted by the first writer! Leadership roles of clinical social workers in medical settings including/especially the regulatory agencies is necessary for change Best, Brooke

      • Brooke, sorry you have had problems downloading it. Does your computer have Adobe downloaded onto it? That may help since this is a PDF File. In the meantime I will check with our IT department to see if there is an issue. I will follow back up with you as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.

        Greg Wright
        NASW Public Relations Manager

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