Workforce in Crisis: Thousands of Social Workers Prevented From Contributing to COVID-19 Response

​The National Association of Social Workers, New Jersey says that the call from state government went out in March, as the enormity of the COVID-19 outbreak in New Jersey was becoming apparent. The state was urgently seeking healthcare professionals who could volunteer their skills and expertise during the pandemic. “We need the help of qualified health, mental health, and related professionals to supplement our health care capacity,” reads the Healthcare Professional “Call to Serve” on the state’s COVID-19 website.1 Among those called to service were physicians, nurses, medical technicians, and social workers.

When the lockdown began, there were an estimated 200 individuals who had licensing applications pending with Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE), the entity under the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) charged with overseeing licensure of social workers in New Jersey. NASW-NJ has had multiple conversations with the BSWE and the DCA and has been told that a solution to move these stalled applications was pending. “We have waited patiently, giving the benefit of the doubt to the state entities who play a role in licensing social workers—we were in the midst of a crisis, they were doing the best they could do, we want to keep our relationship positive and work collaboratively,” says Jennifer Thompson, MSW, Executive Director of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW-NJ). “Four months later a solution has still not been presented. While the BSWE has moved to allow for temporary licenses to address some of the concerns we are still awaiting rule-making necessary to allow for us to move forward.  As of today, the state cannot provide a firm timeline or estimated dates that the pending applications will be processed, or an emergency licensing processing implemented. Social workers spend so much time advocating for the clients we serve—but who is advocating on behalf of social workers?”

There are currently more than 1,000 pending applicants for social work licensing in New Jersey following the most recent influx of Masters level graduates this May. The vast majority of these graduates are New Jersey residents who attended graduate school in New Jersey and are looking for work in New Jersey to help our state cope with the COVID-19 crisis. “These newly graduated social workers are a crucial part of our healthcare system’s response to the pandemic. They are urgently needed to provide relief to the social workers currently in the field who have worked tirelessly these past months to keep up with huge caseloads, daily exposure to traumatic situations, and exhausting circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and our response,” says Thompson. 

“If social workers are to be called to action in the same ways and at the same time as other professions, it is only reasonable that the needs of our profession be met with the same sense of urgency and attention,” Thompson concluded.

Jennifer Thompson
Phone: 917-968-01-81

Source: National Association of Social Workers New Jersey

About National Association of Social Workers-New Jersey

NASW-NJ works to to create and maintain professional standards in the social work field and to advance sound social policies. Learn more at

National Association of Social Workers-New Jersey
30 Silverline Drive
North Brunswick, New Jersey

More Press Releases