October 29, 2018

On October 18, Texas Children’s Hospital’s Social Work Department received the Compassionate Touch Roy Hatch Award 2018 at the Lifeline Chaplaincy & Compassionate Touch Benefit Dinner.

The Social Work team consists of over 75 social workers that are dedicated to enhancing the social functioning and overall well-being of our patients.

“The social work team has strength in its diversity and ability to provide compassionate care to patients and families through illness and/or hospitalization,” Director of Clinical Support Services, Michelle Lawson said. “Our patients and families come to Texas Children’s Hospital for excellent medical care, and our social workers are a part of the interdisciplinary team that help support families throughout their medical journey.”

The Compassionate Touch program was implemented to assist those without adequate financial support for non-medical needs. Lifeline Chaplaincy is dedicated to providing compassionate support to the seriously ill, their families and caregivers, and to being an educational resource for crisis ministry. Both organizations partnered together to annually acknowledge and reward extraordinary social workers who support Compassionate Touch.

The Roy Hatch Award is named after a NASA retiree who was highly devoted to Lifeline Chaplaincy. The award includes direct patient funding for selected medical institutions.

“The social work department is excited about the recognition from Lifeline Chaplaincy and the Compassionate Touch program,” Lawson said. “The selection as the recipient of the Roy Hatch award this year is a wonderful recognition of the strong partnership that our social work team has with Lifeline in providing assistance to the patients and families at Texas Children’s Hospital.”

August 7, 2018

It is that time of the year again; the end of summer means the beginning of a new school year. Texas Children’s Hospital’s Social Work Department organized a back-to-school fair to provide information to patients and their families to help them prepare for the new school year.

“Events like this provides community organization opportunities,” Social Work Manager Jackson Huynh said. “It allows them to reach and serve Texas Children’s patients and families affected by childhood illness that other community organizations will not be able to reach and serve due to a child’s hospitalization and/or rigorous outpatient treatment plan.”

On July 31, the Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Auxiliary Bridge quickly filled with tons of patients and their families waiting to take advantage of the opportunity to receive free school items.

Texas Children’s relationships and partnerships with many groups and agencies made way for a great response when it came to soliciting organizations to participate.

Below are the groups that occupied tables with information along with a few goodies for children and their parents to take with them.

  • One Step Closer Foundation – a non-profit, charitable organization whose main goal is to ease, as much as possible, the lives of those who suffer from cerebral palsy.
  • Houston Food Bank – a private non-profit organization and a certified member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network.
  • Neuhaus Education Center – a non-profit educational foundation dedicated to promoting reading success.
  • Families Empowered – a non-profit organization founded to support the escalating number of families searching for a great school for their child.
  • Disability Rights – recognizes the varied needs of people with disabilities in Texas.
  • HEP Bookstore – a homeschool resource; a bookstore specializing in instructional materials & books for home schooling in a range of subjects.

The One Step Closer Foundation provided the DJ and decorations for the bridge. In addition the foundation, along with the Houston Food Bank, backpacks and school supplies were also given away to patients and their siblings. The fair also provided opportunities for Texas Children’s departments such as Nutritionist, School Coordinators, Animal Assisted Therapy Program, Child Life, the hospital Dieticians, and schoolteachers, to showcase their skill set so that parents and students are more confident and prepared for the upcoming school year.

There was even a photo area created for parents to take school photos of their children. This was a very popular portion of the event for families, as it creates normalization for those who are not able to leave the hospital to attend school and pictures.

The social work department’s goal has been to create an immense presence and emphasize their role in maintaining exceptional patient experience year round.

“We work with families and provide them resources for the various agencies present, so we thought it would be great to bring the agencies here to the hospital,” Social Work Clinical Specialist DeAdra Cage said. “Providing resources to help parents work with the various schools is a big part of our job as Social Workers.”

Many parents who have children in the hospital may not have the time or financial ability to purchase all the necessities needed for school. This event was able to help make the start of the school year a little easier and among all things, let parents know that Texas Children’s is there to support them and their needs.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to assist our families who already have so much going on,” Cage said. “We are very proud of the outcome. As we anticipated, we had an awesome turnout! We were focused on helping the patients and siblings who happened to be on site the day of the event.”

With a goal of helping 300 children, the actual end result was 500. The back-to-school fair was an overall success and the Social Work Department hopes to make this an annual event for many years to come.

March 20, 2018

The month of March is not only for Spring break and preparing for the Easter holiday, but it is also nationally recognized as Social Work Month. Texas Children’s social workers are a large part of the hospital’s success. When most people think of social work, the most relatable aspect of the job is helping and protecting others, most commonly through behavioral health. These community servants are known to positively enhance a child or family’s overall well-being.

Along with the rest of Texas Children’s, diversity is extremely prevalent when it comes to our social workers. This diversity is also included in the way social workers approach each patient’s situation. These highly trained individuals are represented in many different units in the hospital, and all have a common goal of helping patients and families with life changes associated with health care, childbirth, and/or hospitalization.

Hester De Jong is a clinical social worker in the maternal and fetal unit. De Jong is originally from Amsterdam, but moved to the United States from Norway. When she eventually realized she was allowed to get an education in this country, she immediately enrolled in school. After meeting several social workers during her matriculation, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.

“It’s been really great, it probably wouldn’t have been what I would have done back home because it never crossed my path, but here it’s really been awesome,” said De Jong. “I really enjoyed going to school, my internships, my first job, and it’s been great.”

Despite her own accomplishments and personal success story, De Jong says that it’s the connection and life changing moments that she has with her patients, and helping them move past their road blocks that means the most.

“I think it’s the interaction with people, said De Jong. “The opportunity you have to be a part of this very personal journey of someone’s is really precious.”

After a patient or family is referred to a social worker, they provide an assessment to develop a plan of care. This plan is then tailored to how each social worker operates in their particular unit. Social workers are trained to seek out hospital and community resources to maintain and increase opportunities to support the individualized needs of each patient and family.

There are several different types of areas that require social workers such as school, community, military and substance abuse, just to name a few.

Texas Children’s employees are medical social workers, who specializes in public health, geriatric and child palliative care, inpatient and outpatient medical, and mental health.

Over the years, the occupation in the medical field has evolved drastically and become more skill intensive, so that our patients receive the highest level of care. Today, our hospital social workers include both basic needs for family’s physical health and safety, as well as focusing on their mental health.

“Mental health is a big part of social work,” said De Jong. “Helping patients figure out how they are going to cope with this bad news, how are they going to cope with a horrible diagnosis is a big part.”

The social work program has grown immensely since the beginning. Vivian Clark has been a pediatric clinical social worker for Texas Children’s for over a decade. She has experienced many different changes that have resulted in our social worker’s success.

“When I started there were 20 social workers and people really recognized that social worked were needed 24 hours a day,” said Clark. “We have grown three times since I started.”

The social work program takes pride in being highly educated and intensely trained. Social workers at Texas Children’s have their Master’s degree which prepares them to have expertise in assessing individuals and families in an effort to enhance social functioning and well-being. They also emphasize healthy employee relationships that encourages each social worker to share their experiences and mentor others on the team.

Lorenzo Benavides is one of the newest social workers on 11 West Tower, the general surgery, trauma, and orthopedic unit. With less than a year of social work experience at Texas Children’s under his belt, he says that he has learned a lot from other social workers who have been in the field longer.

“The biggest piece of advice that I’ve been given is to know when to catch my breath a little bit,” said Benavides. “I’m very much a fast-paced person, and for me if I was in the family’s shoes I would want things to be done quickly, so I do that as a way of serving them.”

Texas Children’s social workers also affects a wide range of people such as patients, their families, and even employees.

“Social workers are here, really, to support all that’s going on with the patient and family, but they’re also supporting staff, said Mary Tietjens, assistant director of Clinical Support Services. “With their background, they have the training to do emotional support and coping. Some social workers on our team even have their therapy license where they can actually go and do therapy in the community.”

As part of her plan of care, Clark implemented support groups that brings people together that are going through similar situations to participate in activities that eases their mind and gives them someone to talk to. After realizing how successful it was, Clark then decided to apply this strategy to her co-workers, which eventually helped with employee retention in the Progressive Care Unit (PCU).

“What I found is that nurses didn’t place a high priority on the importance of taking care of themselves,” said Clark. “I’ve seen a lot of people still get together and just kind of debrief about their situation. I felt I helped them with a new skill.”

Social workers also work with outpatients as well. Anastasia Deeter is Texas Children’s Hospital Primary Care Practice clinical social worker, located on the Palm Center. It is the only hospital clinic that is off-campus, and with the Texas Children’s partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, this particular location also teaches learning physicians. It’s a residence clinic for continuity so that over 50 doctors at a time can learn about primary care.

“I’m in an incredibly unique clinic,” said Deeter. “It is the only primary care practice for the hospital, minus the complex care, which are very complex, medically fragile patients.”

Although social work at Texas Children’s has evolved drastically over the years, there is much more that they intend to do to continue providing the highest level of care for our patients.

“When I think about our future I think about all the growth that Texas Children’s has seen, and as we move into Austin, and as we acquire and build new buildings here in the medical center like Legacy Tower,” said Tietjens. “I feel like social work is going to be really at the forefront at looking at what do we need to continue to do for patients and families and what more could we do.”

Texas Children’s next expansion will be Legacy Tower, a new portion of the hospital that will house new operating rooms with one intraoperative MRI, as well as a new pediatric intensive care unit (ICU). The Legacy Tower doors will open May 22 and that same day Clark and the rest of the PCU will move to their new hospital home.

“For this particular unit what will be different in Legacy Tower is we’ll be called the transitional ICU. We’ll have the patients that stay long-term until they can go home,” said Clark. “I am excited. It’s a new building. It’s fabulous, everyone’s excited about it.”

Despite the hardships that the job entails like most, Texas Children’s social workers will continue to be an integral part when it comes to supporting patients and their families while they are in the hospital and after they have become discharged.

“I want people to recognize the vast scope of a social worker’s job,” said Tietjens. “That they really can support so many things for patients, their families, and really anyone that they encounter.”