Latest News 20 November 2019|Helping the most vulnerable negotiate their way through a hospital stay is a key driver for the Middlemore-based Acute Allied Health Medical Social Work Service.

The unit are part of a multi-disciplinary team that work across the hospital to minimise barriers and ensure patients and their families are supported.

“While our team works predominantly across the medical wards and specialty services including Stroke, Renal, Cardiology and Haematology, there are other social work teams looking after the needs of patients across the hospital,” says Medical Social Workers Section Head, Fran Birt.

“It’s a privileged role and for our social workers, no two days are the same. We deal with patients and families at an often uncertain time.”

Her 13-strong team are among more than 120 social workers employed across the DHB.

The CM Health Social Work Service offers supportive counselling, advocacy and discharge planning. Patients are referred and assessed with the team taking a holistic approach from the time of admission.  This includes a review of a patient’s social, emotional, spiritual, financial and support needs and determines how this may impact on the patient’s health and wellbeing.

“Our acute social workers discuss any concerns that families have and where needed can refer and assist them to access services that can support them in the community,” says Ms Birt.

“For example, a patient whom is soon to commence dialysis will be provided with pre-treatment support and other educational information that can assist the patient and their family, so they know what to expect and what is available to them in terms of assistance and support.”

The role of social workers, she adds, is unique and diverse.

Often it is the acute medical social workers who will deal with referrals relating to domestic violence, with child protection a major priority, and complex cases where they work with the appropriate staff and community health teams to ensure safe discharge. They are also called on to help patients left outside the hospital by family who have no respite care, or have nowhere to place their family member.

A dog left in the car at the hospital park for days when its owner has had an unexpected hospital stay and even a patient’s missing teeth have also been referred to the team.

“It certainly has its challenges, but that is why we do what we do. The DHB has a great culture that respects and values social workers and the work we do, and this in turn empowers and enables us to provide the best service and support we can for our patients and their families.”

As well as medical wards, social workers work across a range of other areas including: Surgical wards, Women's Health, Maternity, Paediatrics, Renal Medicine, Emergency Department, Cancer Psychological Support, National Burns Centre, Assessment Treatment and Rehabilitation, Child Development Community Services, Centre for Youth Health, Community Health teams, Auckland Spinal Rehabilitation Unit, Maaori Health Te kahui Ora and Pacifica Health Fanau Ola.

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Middlemore Hospital

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