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Fresh Air Magazine

Seeing them through

Social services team stays with patients every step of the way

With some jobs, you have to wait a long time to have an interesting story to tell.

But ask social worker Lora Beth McKee what she likes about working at Rockcastle Regional, and most of the time she can tell you a story from that very day.

“A patient I worked with was discharged just today,” McKee said. “His was a success story – he did a complete 180 and was able to go home, and I remember the smile on his face when he walked out with his family.”

Though Lora Beth didn’t diagnose him, give him a single breathing treatment or administer medication, he might well remember her as much as anyone on staff, and he certainly will reap the rewards of her work.

At discharge, she facilitated his transition home by coordinating with home health care, connecting with the home medical equipment company, going over follow-up medical appointments, and making sure his medications are ready for him when he gets home.

And that’s just at discharge.

The social services department’s role in patient care begins before the patient even arrives.

“We’re the first ones and the last ones to see the patients,” said Mikhael Shaffer, the department’s director. “And our role is mostly about quality of life – to make their transitions smooth, and to make their stay here as home-like as possible.”

Carolyn Browning, who as admissions coordinator is part of the social services team – spends much of her time travelling Kentucky and surrounding states, visiting patients who have been referred to Rockcastle. There she gathers information and communicates with Rockcastle’s team of physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists to determine if Rockcastle Regional can accommodate the patients’ needs. If accepted, planning begins immediately. “Admission day is a busy time,” Shaffer said, “but the day before is even busier.”

That’s when social workers can be found scheduling transportation, coordinating details with the care unit, gathering personal and insurance information, and communicating with the inpatient pharmacy.

During the patients’ stay, the social services team – which consists of six social workers, the admissions coordinator and four activities employees – will be in contact every day, essentially taking care of needs that do not involve clinical care.

“They are our connection to the outside world,” said patient Brian Knoops, “and as time passes, they become our friends and family.”

The activities team has a particular focus on quality of life, helping to coordinate day trips, organizing birthday parties, hosting Bingo games, or having special activities such as viewing the solar eclipse. In August, they even had a bean-breaking party, which brought back sweet memories for many.

“They appreciate that touch of normalcy, doing things that they might have done at home before being hospitalized,” said Ann Abney, activities coordinator.

Social workers and activities coordinators alike agreed that some of the most rewarding times are when former patients come back to visit.

They often come back and see us,” McKee said. “And that’s when you get to see the progress they made. Knowing you had a small part in that means everything.”

Respiratory Care Center

Fresh Air Magazine

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