By: Allie Ondrejcak, Communications Intern
“Never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the health and happiness of another person or an animal is at stake. The punishments of the society are small compared to the damage we inflict on our soul when we look the other way and do nothing.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
The profession of social work follows this mission: enhance human well-being and help people meet their basic human needs—particularly the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed or living in poverty. At the University of Maryland Medical Center, this population is served by the Department of Social Work. The Department helps patients with complex psychosocial needs such as: lack of resources, limited family support, communication barriers or maladjustment to illness. The Department of Social Work believes that recognizing the relationship between social and emotional factors is an important aspect of helping patients. And, because they are aware of the relationship, they are able to understand how it impacts illness.
Here at UMMC, social work has been an integral part of the care system since the early 20th century! The first Department of Social Work at the University Hospital was established in 1919. At that time the Department saw every patient who came to the hospital as they were admitted and they provided follow-up and home visits to all patients after discharge. These measures helped to prevent recurrence of illness and readmission to the hospital. Over the years, the Department grew to include teaching programs, casework discussions, community outreach and hospital-wide policies and procedures. Today, the Department is committed to promoting education, professional development and research, all of which are part of the commitment to excellence in medical social work. The Department of Social Work also oversees Palliative Care, Pastoral Care Services and the Patient Advocacy Department at UMMC.
I spoke with UMMC’s Social Work Manager, Catherine Miller, LCSW-C, and asked her to give me a closer look at the department. Here is an overview of what they do and why they are special:
- Social workers at UMMC start their days at 9:00AM—often much earlier—with Interdisciplinary Rounds (social workers, doctors and nurses use their clinical expertise to coordinate patient care and discuss patients’ discharge). During these rounds, social workers meet with patients and families to prepare for discharge and to assess psychosocial barriers for a patient’s discharge. Oftentimes, social workers work with the outpatient population as well.
- In addition to the complex needs of patients in hospitals and the psychological impact of hospitalization and injury, medical social workers have to know about all other facets of social work, such as family, community and child social work. These professionals have to work extremely fast to build relationships with patients because they may only get to meet with them a few times, sometimes less!
Ms. Miller explained that being a social worker at UMMC is very rewarding because they are able to help patients and family work through the most important events in their lives—from the joys of birth to the sorrows of death.
The Department is full of dedicated professionals but Ms. Miller wants to recognize a few “shining stars!”
- Iris Smith—retiring in March after 45 YEARS of Social Work service at UMMC!
- She was here when the first patient with HIV was treated at UMMC
- Smith also was here during the Civil Rights movement
- Justin Perry, Shannon Mullins and Crystal Johnson who have been vital in assisting with the Department’s restructuring with Care Management.
- Kathy Klein, Chelsea Needle and Carlyn Mast, three social workers who worked very hard to plan the department’s first Social Work Month and organized an information booth at the hospital.
These amazing staff members are part of an equally amazing team. I know first-hand that social workers are passionate, committed and often underappreciated professionals. Social work is dear to my heart because my sister, a licensed clinical social worker, has dedicated her life to helping those who need it most. My sister earned her degree from the University of Maryland School of Social Work and has worked as a child and family therapist for a non-profit organization and as a Child Protective Services agent. She is now a Behavioral Health Case Manager for a hospital and works with their Outpatient Program. The passion she has for helping those who are too vulnerable to help themselves and her commitment to fairness and justice is so apparent. These values are in the hearts of all dedicated social workers and the world needs more people like this! Our Social Workers here at UMMC exemplify these traits every day in their work with patients and families.
You can reach the UMMC Department of Social Work at 410-328-6700 their hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm. The Department also provides after-hour referrals, weekend in-house coverage in Shock Trauma and both the Adult and Pediatric Emergency Departments and on-call service.
Thank you to all social workers and a special thank you to our very own social workers at UMMC for all that you do! The world is a better place because of you!