Close up image of a caretaker helping older woman walk

Inconsistent state laws and low federal standards have resulted in varying qualification and certification standards for nursing home social workers, according to a recently released report.

Approximately 50% of nursing home social workers do not have any degree in social work, and a mere 20% carry a four-year diploma, according to the University of Iowa study. Only 38% of nursing home social workers are actually licensed in social work. While federal law requires that any nursing home with more than 120 beds employ a full time social worker, current standards make anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any human services field and one year’s supervision qualified for the post, the report finds. Many of those interviewed for the survey said they could realistically attend to less than 60 residents, even though they regularly have to work with 120.

Report authors interviewed more than 1,000 social workers at more than 1,000 facilities across the country. They found a great disparity among state guidelines and federal regulations. Standardized regulations across the board will help ensure that nursing home social workers are prepared for their tasks, and that residents receive the quality care and attention they need, according to report authors. The full study will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

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