Always there for patients, families and staff
On September 21, the Department of Social Work celebrated its 100th anniversary at the University of Michigan Health System, but, as Clinical Social Work Coordinator Katie Barry says, “We’re really celebrating how embedded we are in the whole Health System.
“We may not be as easily visible as doctors and nurses, but we’re there helping patients get good outcomes, including quality of life. We help give families a voice. We also help staff deal with occasional behavioral interventions and their own grief. We’re here for …well, just about everybody.”
Being there is a big part of being a medical social worker. Patient Melvin Tounsel can attest to that.
One night Tounsel, who had recently had a liver transplant and was experiencing great pain and fear, really needed someone. And that someone was his clinical social worker Daniel Reid, who had worked with him all through the transplant process. Tounsel called the Health System, Reid was found, and that was really all Tounsel remembers until he woke up the next day in the hospital.
“One of the first people I saw was Daniel,” Tounsel says. “I said to him, ‘I was looking for you,’ and he said, ‘I heard.’”
Tounsel, a now-retired substance abuse counselor and family therapist, says, “I thank God for Daniel’s presence, his knowledge and just being there. He just comforted me and he just made me believe that I’d be here the next day.”
Reid acknowledges the special bond the two men have. “All his life Melvin has given to other people, and sometimes it’s hard for a giver to ask for help. I wanted him to focus in on himself for a change.”
“Daniel made me believe I could achieve,” Tounsel says.
And achieve he has. Tounsel has gained back the weight he lost after surgery, is taking yoga and is able to enjoy life with his wife and children.
Today, Social Work is the third oldest hospital social work department in the U.S. and one of the largest.
UMHS has more than 200 social work staff, most of whom have masters’ degrees. They work in medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, adult, geriatric, inpatient, outpatient areas and the community.
Director of Social Work Kathy Wade, Ph.D., says, “Our greatest accomplishments are the opportunity we’ve had to impact the lives of UMHS patients and families for one hundred years. The Department of Social Work has long had a mission of serving the unique needs that often accompany the health care of patients and families.
“Social workers are integral members of the interdisciplinary medical and psychiatric teams, and coordinate transitions of care that help our patients move seamlessly throughout our Health System.”
In addition, every dollar Social Work contributes to patients is received through donations.
Last year alone, Social Work provided more than half a million dollars’ worth of resources more than 8,000 times. This included gas cards, transportation assistance, meals, emergency needs, medication assistance and other urgent needs.
For more about the Department of Social Work, visit: http://www.med.umich.edu/socialwork/