Where every day is different!

The role of social workers in our Inpatient Unit

When Nicky Monks and Kayleigh Hines from the Rowcroft social work team arrive on the ward each morning, they have no idea what the day will bring. Their aim is to find out what matters most to their patients and families and to support them to achieve their wishes – this may involve helping a family to trace long-lost relatives, coordinating the discharge of a patient to their home or a care home, or even arranging a patient’s wedding! Each day brings something new and different, as they explain here in this intriguing blog.

What the role involves

“Our role is broad and varied and includes supporting patients in many different ways, from helping a patient to secure and move on to the right type of onward specialist care and providing information about funding and financing, through to planning wills, organising events and other life-affirming celebrations, and also assisting with funeral-planning,” says Nicky.

Emotional support

“A big part of my day is offering emotional support to families,” says Kayleigh. “I can spend a good hour having a conversation with a person about how they’re feeling, and this is such a powerful part of the work we do. A particular special part of our role is being able to work alongside patients with their children, for example, we support patients in making memory boxes for children. We also support people to write lasting memory letters and birthday or celebration cards to be passed on.

“It’s important for people to feel they’re not alone, that they have someone who is understanding and who is with them on their journey. We try to hold people’s hands through the process. Sometimes it’s about having those difficult conversations with patients and families about what they’d like to happen before, during and after death.”

Asking “What matters to you right now?”

“Before time runs out, we always ask the question, ‘What is the most important thing to you right now?’” says Nicky. “Sometimes the answer is about being pain-free or symptom-free; other times it’s about achieving a last wish, such as finding a daughter they’ve not spoken to in a long time, or finding out what’s happened to a child who was adopted. Sometimes it’s about closing a door; other times it’s about opening a new one. We have the time and freedom to have those conversations and where we can, we help patients to achieve their last wishes.”

A time of waiting

“For some families, the time in the Inpatient Unit is a time of waiting,” says Nicky. “People may have an idea of how they’re going to cope after someone dies, but this waiting time pre-bereavement can be very stressful and strange for families. No-one tells you how ‘to be’ in this waiting time, or what to do or how to feel, and this can be such a difficult time so we’re here to help support in any way we can.”

Understanding each individual

“We have the time and the freedom to be able to get to know each patient,” says Kayleigh. “And it doesn’t take long before people tell us about their amazing lifelong journeys! We like to find out about each patient and what’s important to them, rather than just knowing about their diagnosis and medical notes.”

“For example, one lady on the ward had been a pianist, so we put classical piano music on the iPod so that she could listen to that,” says Nicky. “That’s what’s lovely, we get to find out about the incredible lives behind our patients, and what’s important to them and how we can support them.”

Arranging weddings!

“Weddings are always a great example of how we support people to achieve their final wishes,” says Nicky. “We work as a whole team across Rowcroft to get everything organised including cakes, flowers, hair and makeup, and once we even had a choir. It used to be that weddings would take place beside the bedside to sign the register, but in the last few years we’ve been able to make them into wonderful events – they’ve got to be whatever fairy tale that person wants. Everyone deserves a fairy tale!”

A job worthwhile

“It’s lovely when a patient says ‘thank you’,” says Kayleigh. “It may seem only a little thing, but when people are really poorly and fatigued, for them to remember my name and to make that effort in their final hours to say ‘thankyou’, that really means a lot. And it’s satisfying to know that we’ve supported people to die in the way that they want to, it makes my job worthwhile.”

Making it as good as it can be

“The way in which someone passes away will live on with that family forever, “ says Nicky. “So it’s a huge privilege to be there to help in whatever way we can and to make it as good an experience as it possibly can be.”

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