The Importance of a Transplant Social Worker


In this article, I want to focus on the importance of your social worker if you are living in a hospital with a life threatening medical condition.

When Lauren was admitted into the hospital, I felt like my world was turned upside down. I was so scared for my daughter.  Looked around the room, so many monitors, machines so clinical and thinking this is my home now.   I know my daughter was scared so I had to keep an upbeat persona to help her feel more at ease.  Nurses were coming in and out, monitors were beeping, IV’s were being administered, so much, too much was happening.

At Brigham & Women’s all the cardiac patients have private rooms, that was a blessing.  There was a couch in the room, so as I sat there with my husband just holding hands, my mind was going in a thousand directions.  I knew he would have to go home in a couple of days to go to work, I had to dig deep to find the strength to figure out how the hell am I going to be able to live in a hospital room with my daughter, in a city I didn’t know, being 87 miles away from home.  We had no idea how long we were going to be there.  Days, weeks, months or a year.  One thing I did know was, I was not leaving my daughter.  We were in this together.  From the outside people saw a different person, on the inside I was crying from fear.

We were meeting so many people, I would take their cards and on the back I would write little notes on them, like hair color, just something so that I could remember who they are.  I didn’t want to be rude when they entered the room, if I couldn’t read their name badges.

There was one person we met that knew I wouldn’t forget her name, it was  Kristen DeVoe, our social worker from the hospital.  Kristen came into the room, introduced herself to us, then told us she was here to help us in anything we needed.  She was not only there for Lauren, but she was there for me also.

Everyday, Kristen would come to our room to check on us, giving us emotional support, asking if we needed anything and I mean anything.  Kristen became a very important confidant in my life.  I found I could talk with her about anything.  She also was a blessing when it came to taking care of medical paperwork, insurance forms basically anything.  More important, when I just needed a hug or talk outside of Lauren’s room, Kristen was their for me.  When Lauren wanted to talk, I would leave the room so she could have her one on one time also.

I wrote to Kristen and asked her if I could write a post about her and her job as a social worker.  Even though we have been out of the hospital for a while now, I can still contact Kristen if I need to.  Kristen’s answered “absolutely”.  A social worker will not be your best friend, but during that time in the hospital, in my mind she was.

I would like to introduce you to,

Kristen DeVoe MSW, LICSW
Clinical Social Worker
Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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 Some facts about my role…I’ll include my basic job description first:

· Work as part of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, dieticians and pharmacists.
· Provide comprehensive social work assessments as part of a pre-transplant or pre-ventricular assist device evaluation.
· Provide ongoing psychosocial and emotional support to patients and families before and after transplant and mechanical circulatory support.
· Facilitate a monthly support group for patients with mechanical circulatory support.
· Offer clinical opinions regarding the candidacy of potential transplant recipients at weekly selection committee meetings.

Boring, I know. So a lot of what I do is help patients and families get through the difficult process of waiting for a transplant. I provide support and counseling for patients before listing, while they are waiting and then after transplant. When I first meet a potential transplant patient I have to get to know them and make sure they have enough social support to get through the process successfully. I help patients manage anxiety and depression and basically serve as a source of support for them emotionally. I love my job. The relationships that I form with patients and families (like you and Lauren) are very important to me and I feel grateful that people allow me to share part of their journey. It truly is a privilege to work with the patients that I get to see and I’m constantly amazed by how much the human spirit can endure without breaking.

Kristen

Kristen DeVoe MSW, LICSW
Clinical Social Worker
Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

If you are living in a hospital, please take the support of your social worker.  Dr.’s and nurses are very important components in your care, but also remember your social worker is as important also.

This post is dedicated to Kristen DeVoe and all the other social workers out there.

Lynne

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of a Transplant Social Worker

  1. Great post on social workers and heart transplants. I really didn’t know mine well during my hospital stay because I was unconscious. But my wife and my family talked about her at great lengths well I was recovering. The last week in the hospital I did get to know her and saw what an amazing person she was and how difficult her job could be.

    Fast forward a year when I decided I was ready to volunteer in talking with patients and their families on the heart transplant journey …… pre and post ….. my social worker became my boss ….. guiding me to patients that needed a visit from someone that had been through the process …… it is a very rewarding “job” now …… my social worker was a HUGE cog in that machine that saved my life so many, many times.

    May God always bless her!

    DAP @ My2ndHeartBeat

    Like

  2. They are very important as you found out. We also found a hospice team when my mom was in the hospital and dying and they were a godsend as well.
    God bless those people who give of themselves in their jobs!

    Like

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