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Hospital Social Workers: Leaders, Champions and Patient Advocates

February 26, 2018

For patients and their families, the stress of a hospital stay can be overwhelming. Faced with serious health challenges, the patient’s physical needs come first.

Yet the situation most likely requires more than physical care.

This is when the hospital social worker becomes an invaluable resource to the both the patient and the family.

“We work to help prevent crises and to counsel individuals, families and communities to cope more effectively with the stresses of everyday life,” said Kerry Hoyt, a licensed clinical social worker at Hartford Hospital.

March is National Social Work Month. Throughout the year, in the hospital setting, social workers deal with families already in crisis due to illness or injury while seeing the situation from a bigger perspective. They address larger societal challenges that, left unaddressed,  can affect the patient’s recovery. These include poverty, discrimination, abuse, addiction, divorce, loss, unemployment, educational problems, disability and mental illness.

“When someone has a serious illness, we understand that the family will need to cope with an up and down course over time, and face uncertainty and challenges,” Hoyt said. “I work to help families anticipate their needs and choices, make the best decisions for their family and help them access what they need from our care team and hospital.”

Just as important, the social worker provides patients and their families with a much-needed opportunity to talk to a supportive, nonjudgmental health-care professional.

“Our most important intervention can be to listen; our patients and families need to be heard” said Hoyt. “Often, people have their own solutions, and our presence and support helps them find the strength to move forward.”

You may benefit from talking with a hospital social worker if you:

  • are dealing with a new diagnosis, living with a serious illness or a chronic illness.
  • need support communicating with the health-care team.
  • need someone to listen to your concerns.
  • are worried about the future.
  • are wondering about advance directives and who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself.
  • are feeling sad, depressed, or frustrated.
  • have concerns about your safety.
  • are looking for counseling or guidance.

If you are a patient or family member seeking these services, please reach out to a member of your health-care team to request a social worker. You may also call the Hartford Hospital Social Work Department at 860-972-2966 to request a social worker visit.