More than 30 years ago, Children's Hospital's Social Work Department consisted of one social worker, a tiny office located in the back of an elevator shaft and an annual caseload of a little more than 400 patients. Today, Children's Hospital employs more than a dozen social workers, who, from their suite of offices on the Second Floor of the Koppel Plaza, assist several thousand patients and families each year.
The growing numbers of cases and social workers are not the only changes evident. Since 1973, social work responsibilities have also increased – and have changed dramatically. Social workers assist families with basic needs (clothing, food, transportation, financial referrals, etc.), but more significantly, they provide a wealth of additional services, including supportive counseling, crisis intervention, discharge planning, case coordination, information and referral, and language and hearing-impaired interpretation services.
The Social Work Department also helps patients and families deal with the emotional stress of a child's illness or injury. Social workers help by teaching therapeutic coping techniques to patients and families and by referring them to community resources so families may receive ongoing assistance post discharge from Children's Hospital. Sometimes emotions can become more complicated when detailed medical information is presented to already stressed parents, and a social worker is often of assistance in these situations.
"Sometimes we serve as a liaison between physicians and patients and their families, because they may feel overwhelmed, anxious or unable to understand the information provided," said Beverly Schneider, Director of Social Work.
It is important to convey medical information accurately to all patients and families. The increase in non-English-speaking families in East Tennessee has made interpretation services necessary to meet the needs of this diverse population. The Social Work Department provides the...