Social Workers give creative and compassionate care during pandemic challenges

Our Social Workers are a key part of our patient-care team. In the early days of the pandemic they worked quickly to understand how to continue their important work in light of new rules and guidelines. Social Workers at GGH provide support to patients and their caregivers in many ways, none of which can stop for a pandemic. They may assess risk related to mental health or child welfare and help coordinate community supports, including temporary housing.

In addition, they help patients and families who are dealing with difficult and traumatic situations. Coordinating discharge planning and patient flow through the Hospital is also an important role of our Social Workers, together with others on the Hospital team. Each unit in the Hospital, from the Emergency Department through to the inpatient units, has an assigned Social Worker.

The Social Workers have had to figure out how to meet the needs of patients and families in slightly different ways due to COVID-19. In the early stages of the pandemic, they had to learn new PPE rules and change some standard practices. Daily team ‘huddles’ made sure they had the most up-to-date information about rapidly changing practices throughout the Hospital and with partners in the community like long-term care and retirement homes.

To reduce exposure to COVID-19, Social Workers began to use technology instead of face-to-face meetings to do assessments and coordinate discharge plans. Patients who were well enough could join through phone and the team brought in family or community supports via phone when needed. And, Social Workers helped patients use donated tablets to help keep in touch with loved ones who were not able to visit. Even though they are using technology more, the strength and importance of relationships has been essential.

The Social Work team continues to work closely with their internal and external partners to figure out how best to support a patient’s move from hospital to home or another place. As an example, there are more frequent meetings with community partners to better address the needs of some of our more vulnerable populations. Patients who have mental health challenges, addictions or experience homelessness will benefit from this enhanced partnership. By nature, the role of a Social Worker requires thinking outside of the box, strong connections with partners and keeping the patient at the center of the work.

We are so grateful to have had the creativity and compassion of our Social Work team to draw on during this very challenging time. The support they provide to our patients and families is crucial to the Hospital and our overall goal of providing the highest quality of care possible to our community.

This story originated on Guelph General Hospital’s Facebook page on August 25th, 2020 as part of its #behindthemask series to share how the Hospital is working hard to protect patients and visitors from #COVID19.