How Social Workers Support Patients and Families

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How Social Workers Support Patients and Families At Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), social workers provide support and guidance to patients and families.

We sat down with team members Charisse Rhone, Lucia Figueroa, Melissa Greberman, Gino Poliziani, Lynn Callaway and Taylor Goldberg to learn more about the role of social workers in CHOP's Cardiac Center.

Q. What is the primary patient population you serve?

A. We serve cardiac families across the fetal, inpatient and outpatient settings. If a condition is diagnosed in utero, we start meeting with expectant parents during pregnancy and support them throughout their prenatal care in the Fetal Heart Program. We provide continued support after a child is born and throughout their inpatient journey, including in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU).

We support families with children of all ages, who may be hospitalized following surgery, treatment or a new diagnosis. We also work with families of children receiving outpatient care, including those in the Fontan Forward Program and the Cardiac Kids Developmental Follow-Up Program. We meet with children and teens and their families on CHOP’s Philadelphia Campus and offer support by phone to families across CHOP locations.

Q. What are some of the ways you provide support for patients and their families?

A. Having a child diagnosed with a heart condition can be emotionally, physically and financially draining. The impact on patients and their families can sometimes be overwhelming. The needs of every patient and family are different, so we support families in many ways. Our first step is to complete a social work assessment so we can explore a family’s strengths and needs and learn how to best support them.

The types of support we provide include:

  • Emotional support to help families cope while facing challenging circumstances, such as surgery, hospitalization or a new or ongoing illness.
  • Connection to resources and programs both in and out of the hospital. We can provide information on cardiac and diagnosis-specific organizations, insurance benefits, mental health resources, foundations for financial assistance and more.  
  • Lodging for families who have a child in the hospital — long term or just for a few days – and need help finding a nearby place to stay.
  • Transition to home for families of children who have been hospitalized for an extended period and are facing challenges and uncertainty as they prepare for discharge home. We offer guidance throughout the planning process and collaborate with multidisciplinary teams to ensure families receive the support they need for a successful transition to home.
  • Access to care when families need help overcoming barriers, such as insurance, transportation, financial concerns, language differences and more. We can help assess the situation and provide resources as needed.

Overall, we strive to be a constant support across our families’ medical journeys.

Q. Do you work with other Cardiac Center team members?

A. We collaborate with many groups across the hospital to provide care for families. Our psychosocial team includes social workers, child life specialists, psychologists, chaplains and creative arts therapists. We work closely to best support our families. Our team can also help with referrals for additional services as needed.

The social work team also plays an important role in supporting the partnership and communication between families and their medical teams. We can help assess and support family understanding during complex conversations in the hospital. When language is a barrier, we work with Language Services to connect families with interpreters who can facilitate better communication in the hospital.

Group of CHOP Employees Q. What is your favorite part of your job?

A. When a child has been inpatient and is discharged, it’s wonderful to see them head home, but we also love when they come back to visit. When children recognize us and smile, it just melts our hearts.

It’s also amazing when a family is able to find joy during their child’s medical journey. Seeing parents get excited when their child meets a milestone or accomplishes a goal is so rewarding!

Q. What do you want families and patients to know about your job?

A. Sometimes, families can have misconceptions about what social work means. We want families to know we are here to provide support, advocacy and guidance along their journeys. We also want families to know we remember them and are always thinking of them!

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