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HINES MSW Field Placement and Internship

The VA operates the most comprehensive clinical training program for social workers. The VA is affiliated with over 230 graduates schools and trains approximately 1,500 Master of Social Work interns a year. The social work trainee program provides a robust training and educational opportunity to Masters level Social Work students. Students are prepared for the unique challenges social workers face in the workplace.

About Hines

Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital is one of the largest and most diversified medical and surgical hospitals in the Department of Veterans Affairs system.  Hines is located 12 miles west of downtown Chicago. The hospital is a tertiary referral center with many specialty services, including some that serve a large regional area.  Hines operates 471 hospital beds, and logged over 631,000 outpatient visits last year. Hines has one of the largest research programs in the VA system, with 553 projects, 159 investigators, and an estimated budget of approximately $20 million. Hines is a 1A complexity teaching hospital that offers comprehensive inpatient, outpatient, long-term care (LTC), and residential services.

In addition to the main hospital campus, Hines has six Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs). The outpatient clinics are located in Hoffman Estates, Joliet, Kankakee, LaSalle, North Aurora, and Oak Lawn areas.


Hines is institutionally affiliated with Social Work Masters Programs at the following Universities:

  • Aurora University
  • Chicago State University
  • Dominican University
  • Loyola University
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Chicago
  • University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana.

Social Work at Hines

The VA is the largest employer for social workers in the nation, with approximately 17,300 masters prepared social workers on staff. Social Work Service at Hines VA is comprised of over 200 masters prepared Social Workers. Social Workers at Hines are embedded in almost every department or area of the hospital and have a leadership role in over 30 programs. Mr. Joseph Ader, LCSW, is the Chief of Social Work Service and has worked for the VA for 19 years. Like many other VA Social Workers, Mr. Ader completed his intern training at Hines prior to starting his Social Work career.

Social Workers at Hines VA provide a variety of clinical interventions and programming within in the system and the community. These services include, but are not limited to:

  • Discharge planning
  • Outreach to unhoused Veterans
  • Counseling and psychotherapy
  • Case management
  • Assessment treatment of substance abuse problems
  • Advanced care planning
  • Therapeutic group facilitation

Information linkage and referrals

Internship program (eligibility, stipend)

The VA operates the most comprehensive clinical training program for social workers. The VA is affiliated with over 230 graduates schools and trains approximately 1,500 Master of Social Work interns a year. The social work trainee program provides a robust training and educational opportunity to Masters level Social Work students. Students are prepared for the unique challenges social workers face in the workplace.

The Social Work Intern Program at Hines VA is currently only able to accept advanced clinical MSW students for placement. Hines offers summer block placements, typically May through August or May through December, as well as the traditional August to April academic year placement. 

The application process requires a cover letter describing areas of clinical interest and a resume. We begin to accept applications beginning January 15th. Interviews begin mid-February and will continue until our placements are filled.

We offer a stipend of $6490. This stipend is paid out over a total of 500 hours.

Please direct all questions related to the Social Work Internship Program or application submissions to Kristen Cagadas, LCSW, Intern Program Coordinator and the Hines SW Intern Committee:


There is a vast amount Social Work managed programs, however, available placements may vary year to year, based on clinical staff that volunteer to be field instructors.

  • Inpatient Medicine
  • Renal/Kidney Transplant
  • Emergency Department
  • Patient Aligned Care (PACT)
  • Maternity Care
  • Medical Companion Program
  • Primary Care Behavioral Health
  • Patient Experience/Patient Advocate
  • Fisher House
  • Inpatient Psychiatry
  • Acute Recovery Clinic
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Prevention Management of Disruptive Behavior
  • Center for Mindfulness & Integrative Psychiatry
  • Mental Health Clinic/Mental Health Intake
  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Eating Disorder Team
  • Psychosocial Rehabilitation & Recovery Center (PRRC)
  • Mental Health Intensive Case Management (MHICM)
  • Addiction Treatment Program/Opioid Treatment Program
  • Substance Abuse Rehab Residential Treatment Program (SARRTP)
  • Homeless Program
    • Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV)
    • Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD VASH)
  • Military2VA (M2VA)
  • Caregiver Support Program
  • Geriatrics
  • Homebased Primary Care (HBPC)
  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
  • Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC)
  • Hospice/Palliative Care
  • Home Health & Contracted Adult Daycare

Commitment to Diversity and Equity

Social Work is committed to developing and preserving a culture of diversity, inclusion, and acceptance by  providing education opportunities, exploring current hiring practices, and eliminating discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability.

The internship training program within Social Work Service at Hines VA is committed to fostering and upholding an inclusive community that welcomes and supports trainees from all social identity groups.

Hines Social Work Service wants to reach a larger audience with diverse experiences and backgrounds who want to make an impact on the service line. One of the ways in which we are promoting and creating a diverse and inclusive environment is through our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Social Work Committee. The committee is made up of a group of Social Work staff – Social Workers, Peer Support Specialists, and Administrative staff – who coordinate efforts to make effective changes and build our community. The Social Work DEI Committee serves Social Work Service in the following ways:

  • Education and Training
    • Consolidate trainings made available in VHA to local service line and encourage participation.
    • Provide regular opportunity for discussion to service line members (by way of book studies, podcasts discussions or any other means) regarding issues of DEI.
    • Explore avenues to provide additional support to service line staff members on specific DEI issues in the workplace.
    • Regularly collect and disseminate data on incidents of discrimination within the service line to inform future efforts.


  • Hiring and Retention
    • Regularly research best practices and provide training to hiring managers with an emphasis on the importance of DEI.
    • Evaluate and refine current platforms used to disseminate information regarding social work and intern postings to emphasize the social work service line’s commitment to a diverse workplace.
    • Provide and maintain a hiring toolkit to be used by social work hiring managers.

In addition to service line specific efforts, Social Work Service affords staff to participate in hospital programs that address individual differences and focuses on cultural diversity. Hines VA offers Special Emphasis Programs such as Asian American/Pacific Islander Program, Black Empowerment Program, Federal Women’s Program, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies (LGBTA) Program, Individuals with Disabilities Program, Hispanic Employment Program, and Native American Program.

Testimonials from previous interns/current staff

“My time as a social work intern at Hines is when I really flourished into the type of social worker I am today, I learned my working style, passions and so many evidence based treatments !

I was overwhelmed with the amount of knowledge I gained from my intern experience compared to my peers. It made me excited to do this work, and pursuit a career at the VA.

Transitioning to a full time employee was the greatest accomplishment after graduation that I had. I was excited to work in a place that had so many tools and resources for the population we serve. It is a true honor and privilege to be a VA employee – I wish everyone got to experience it!”

-Kelly R.

“I was a social work intern in the Mental Health clinic during the Fall 2020 to Spring 2021 school year.  The intern experience and mentorship of Alejandra Aguilar, LCSW prepared me well for my post-graduate employment. As I began my social work career, I felt well-prepared in mental health assessment, diagnosis, treatment and transition planning.  I received consistent feedback from non-VA employers that my documentation skills were solid.  Although I was not able to transition directly to employment at Hines immediately after graduation, I was able to return 10 months later. I was hired by the Post-9/11 M2VA Case Management Program in Spring 2022, and I recently accepted a position in the Mental Health Clinic as a BHIP Care Coordinator. My social work internship at Hines was one of the best professional training experiences I have had.”

-Joey Y.

“My time as an intern at Hines was during the height of our pandemic precautions so there are some areas or programs that I would have loved to explore more but unfortunately wasn’t able to during my 9 month internship. I feel very lucky to have had my primary placement within patient advocate as it helped to familiarize nearly every patient experience at the hospital and CBOCs from medical care, to scheduling and bene travel woes, to fairly obscure inquiries (like why Hines displays the service branch flags in the order it does). My field supervisor encouraged me to think creatively and problem solve every day and I don’t think I could manage some of the concerns that arise in my program as an employee without building those muscles. It was also such a gift to be encouraged to shadow in the different programs which were operating during my internship. I feel blessed to have been able to spend time in both medical and administrative roles and garner those skill sets.

I don’t know that I feel my internship fully prepared me to onboard as an employee at Hines. It’s kind of like peeking behind the curtain in Oz vs. the grand reveal when you begin as an FTE. If I were asked to suggest some ways to ease this transition, I would recommend that interns be better educated to facility and SWS-wide SOPs and expected changes to come from national or the VISN level. This is where having a veteran social worker mentor has been very helpful.”

-Ashley L.

“I was lucky enough to have a dual internship with both medicine and mental health all in one school year. Additionally, the field instructors I had worked very well together in the same clinic so I always felt supported, looked out for, comfortable to come to them. They also encouraged me to be independent and were confident in my ability to help the Veterans/their loved ones. I was able to trust myself in providing social work services to Veterans because I knew they would help and support me. Being an intern at Hines VA also allows the opportunity to shadow other departments so you can receive a variety of experiences, and then ultimately decide what type of social work you want to pursue.  Being an intern was an experience I will never forget and always remember that experience as my starting point to get me to where I am today.

Transitioning to being an employee is definitely an adjustment because – while I had a great supervisor – you no longer have the “backing of a field instructor” to automatically turn to. Being a staff member entails the caseload being completely your own and you are the Veteran’s main social worker, without the immediate field instructor to consult with. With being a student, there are positives in that you already have developed connections and relationships with other social workers and departments so it does not feel as “new” when you start working. It is exciting to form your own path and way of doing things after everything you learned as a student. Personally, I enjoyed the high expectations placed on me when I started as an employee as I was recent intern in the same area I was hired for!

Being an intern and employee at Hines VA offers the most special experience as you get to work with Veterans and those that care for them every day. The VA offers plenty of resources and services that allows you to brainstorm and critically think about how to best help the Veteran. The support from your former field instructors, mentors, supervisors, and social work leadership are unmatched. “

-Brittany P.

“I felt support and encouragement from the other Hines social workers as a new social worker during my internship in the ECC and now as new employee. Because of the internship, I felt comfortable using CPRS, advocating for Veterans, asking questions. It’s incredible how many social workers work here and with so many different roles. Hines always encourages us as both an intern and employee to learn about all the social work roles and different programs so we can best help the veterans. I’m loving the new role I have and am privileged to work with Veterans again!”

-Jensy J.

“My social work internship at the Hines VA has been an incredible experience. The mentorship, guidance, and clinical knowledge that I received from my time as a social work intern had shaped my social work practice for years to come. I feel so lucky that I was able to intern at the VA during my time as a student, because integrating into my role as a social work employee at 2 South has been a smooth transition due to the clinical experience I had already gained at the VA. I cannot recommend the social work internship program at Hines enough!”

-Alisa S.

“Interning at Hines VA has allowed me to experience multiple areas of social work. I interned in Inpatient Acute Rehab in 2020, while also being able to shadow in 10+ different departments which gave me a very good understanding of the many roles Social Workers hold throughout Hines VA. My supervisor was great, and really advocated for my experience to be very well rounded! Although I was hired in an outpatient setting, I felt very supported by the Social Work Service Line as a whole.”

-Nat K.

“My internship was extremely robust and supportive and that still does not do it justice.  My field instructor made sure that I connected with various programs throughout the hospital for shadowing opportunities and didn’t throw me “into the fire” until she and I thought I was ready.  She made sure that she learned the way that I absorbed information the best and she always made sure I knew where support was during difficult client interactions.  I was given enough autonomy to succeed and fail and was granted a safe space to talk about my frustrations. 

Finally, as an employee my overall experience has been great.  Personally, I am extremely overwhelmed.  So much information, yet I feel like I am not absorbing things as quickly as I would like.  However, my team in HCHV has been very supportive and has allowed me to give myself the grace I need to know that it is ok to not know absolutely everything.  I am so glad I took the opportunity to do my internship here and have been granted the opportunity to still help with Suicide Prevention in the sense of addressing a huge risk factor that homelessness entails.”

-Ian L.

“I was an intern in the Caregiver Support Program (CSP). The interview process was coordinated through my school, UIC. Staff were very approachable in my interview panel. The intern committee was responsive in their communication. Once in the program, the intern committee became an important part of my professional support network. The committee was informative as interns learned to navigate the VA system. Towards the end of my internship the intern committee and the CSP  staff provided much needed guidance on the process to apply for federal employment. Within several months after graduation, I was hired into the Transition Care Management Program, now called M2VA.”

-Derya K.

“I am currently the program manager of the Addiction Treatment Program (ATP), Hines’ outpatient substance use program. What is quite fitting about this position is that I began in this program as an intern in 2013. My SW education along with my internship experience in ATP served as a strong foundation - it lead me to a post-master’s SUD fellowship at the Puget Sound VA, then to outpatient SUD CBOC settings at the Southeast Louisiana VA, eventually leading me back to Hines ATP as a full-time staff member. Fast forward a few more years and I am leading a team that I once interned with and still absolutely loving the work that I do!”

Susan Z.