Hospital social workers provide support through life changes
Your life situation changes in seconds when you have an accident or receive a new medical diagnosis. At such times, a social worker is able to support the person and their family. Jaana Kahilainen and Tiina Toiminen talk about what social work integrated into healthcare is like.
Hospital social workers provide support through sudden life changes
“The great thing about working at a hospital is that I can react quickly to an acute crisis in the event of an accident or illness. Social work can then be about reorganizing a person’s life and applying for Kela benefits, but also just about listening, encountering, and being present at a difficult time,” they explain.
The everyday work of Tiina Toiminen and Jaana Kahilainen at Hyvinkää Hospital includes many acute and surprising situations that cannot be foreseen at the beginning of the work week. The days often also include a couple of pre-booked outpatient appointments. Encounters with the customer can last from ten minutes to a couple of hours.
“Sometimes I even support a person throughout the day: I accompany them in the emergency department queue or check on their situation over the phone. The most important thing is that a person would not fall through the cracks of the provided services,” Tiina says.
Social work at the hospital is about multiprofessional cooperation
Social work at HUS is not done alone. When working in a hospital, a social worker is often the only professional in their field in a multidisciplinary team, so you need to have the courage to bring your expertise to the table. On the other hand, it is also the spice of multiprofessional work: you can simultaneously learn a lot about the overall situational picture through the expertise of others.
“Together we can move things forward better, both individual problems as well as structural problems in social work.”
You can always knock on the door of a fellow social worker or supervisor when you are in need of the view of another professional in the field. The support of colleagues and an easily available supervisor will help you move forward even in difficult situations.
The most rewarding thing are the encounters with other people
Often the most rewarding moments with customer encounters are the small interactions with people when you know you are doing important work.
“I remember a moment at the beginning of my career when, during a difficult time, my clients just cried throughout the appointment and I didn’t really know what to say. I felt like I had failed, but the next day they were full of praise for me and our encounter. Sometimes the most important thing is just being there, our presence,” Jaana reminds us.
In addition to the value of saying “thank you” out aloud, the concrete Nopsa recognition recently showed Tiina that she has succeeded well in collaborating with others, and it reminded her of the importance of social work as part of the hospital’s multiprofessional efforts.
Who is cut out for social work in a hospital setting?
Jaana and Tiina’s work at the hospital is fast-paced, multidisciplinary, and people-oriented. It differs from municipal social work in that the work does not include official responsibility. The connection with healthcare services brings its own special characteristics to the work, which you learn on the job.
“Even though I was a social worker, I had no experience in health care before I came to work at HUS. With orientation, any social worker can learn the specifics,” Jaana says.
“And, on top of that, Jaana herself is an excellent work inductor for others!” Tiina adds.