Rural Newfoundland has often been faced with challenges. Residents in rural areas generally can’t access the same level of services or resources as people living in larger places. Where we might miss the availability of such benefits, we more than make up for it by having closer connections within our communities.
Our sense of identity is grounded in our strong roots. Social work is rooted in making and nurturing connections and through them, helping communities to thrive. Social workers cultivate positive outcomes for our clients and patients, every day.
This has been the philosophy for our Peninsulas team of long-term care and acute care social workers. There can be a tendency to get lost in the documentation, case consultation, and meetings. However, as a team working in small outport communities, we have tried to keep our roots alive in an effort to bring hope to our patients.
We are all intertwined within the community and we make every effort to network and to reach out. We will sit with a patient who is dying until family arrives; we have reminisced with a patient who has Alzheimer’s about the old days; our workdays may include making a cup of tea and watching the news with a patient who has no one else to relate with; we are there to hold the hand of a person who just received a terminal diagnosis; and have been present to grieve with a couple who have just lost a child.
Not only have we established good relationships with the patients we serve, but also with fellow professionals in the hospital and community. This allows us to provide good continuity of care. These relationships and effective communication with the inter-professional team enhance social work practice within acute care and also help with discharge planning for patients. Before someone even comes through the doors of the Emergency Department, we often get a call from their case manager or their counsellor to tell us to expect them and to request follow-up care. We keep the same lines of communication open during the patient discharge process. Communication is really enhanced by the teamwork within the facility. Whether it is morning rounds with the team or bed utilization, we pursue an interdisciplinary approach. We all work together to provide the highest quality of care to the patients we serve.
In long-term care, our social workers are invested in making this final placement a home for the resident. Paula English, social worker at Blue Crest Nursing Home says, “Our team has held family days. A representative from Mary Kay cosmetics was brought in to provide beauty makeovers to the female residents for their Christmas party; a social worker went out in a snow storm to get a family member of a dying resident to ensure she was not alone.”
At U.S. Memorial Health Centre, our social worker, Kim Slaney, continues to think outside the box in ensuring residents needs are met. She had a resident who was very unwell and often talked about how they loved the smell of baking bread. Kim was quick to come up with a plan to have the recreation department and able residents make homemade bread in the facility and later brought the warm loaf to the resident’s room in an effort to bring her the comfortable feeling of home.
Our social worker at Golden Heights Manor, Fiona Broderick, has been the only social worker for acute care as well as long-term care for most of her work life. It was only recently that she was provided with an opportunity to have long-term care as her main area of work. “My workload used to be more concrete than clinical,” Fiona says. “Now I’m more involved with true social work practice. I’m so excited at the prospect of getting back to my social work roots.”
At O’Mahony Manor, our long-term care social worker, Laura Russell, collaborated with a local artist to create a wall mural that would help remind residents of their origins. The painting is of a scenic garden and rural Newfoundland setting. Viewing this painting provides residents with an opportunity to reflect and is a real conversation piece when families come to visit. Laura is currently involved in fundraising for the development of a pavilion on site. It is with great pride that our long-term care social workers invest their time to ensure the best possible placement for their residents.
Far too often we get caught up in the mundane tasks of our jobs. It’s important to keep in mind what we envision true social work to be. It is vital to sit back and reflect on why we chose this profession and how we have nurtured a smile or brought a tear to those we have provided service to in the years we have all worked. The sense of accomplishment we feel when someone reaches out their hand to hold yours and calls you an angel is one of the most rewarding experiences in life. It is experiences like this that can re-energize a tired mind and body and revitalize the passion for true social work.
Our team here in Peninsulas have a combined approximate total of 137 years of social work practice so one can only imagine the stories to be told and experiences that were had in that time. These stories and experiences take us back to our roots and provide inspiration for reflection on some of the most important moments in practice.
March is National Social Work Month. ■
This story was written by Kim Vaters, BSW, RSW, regional coordinator for acute care and long-term care, Peninsulas with contributions from Kim Slaney, Paula English, Cynthia Norman, Laura Russell, Lezley Blundon, Fiona Broderick and Jessica McCarthy (Social work team, Peninsulas).