Social workers are a valuable resource to patients and families. From helping you understand your diagnosis to easing your transition back home, they help you and your family address your social, financial, and psychological needs related to your hospital stay.
At Chester County Hospital, social workers are available nearly 24 hours a day to answer your questions about discharge planning, connect you to appropriate community resources, and ease the process of staying in the hospital.
Social workers are available in the Emergency Department and for inpatient services. That means you can access the many tools they have at their disposal whether you've been planning on your surgery for months or you ended up in the emergency room because of an injury, illness or crisis.
Social workers Kyle Finucane, MSW, and Anne-Marie Shea, MSW
"Sometimes patients and their loved ones are surprised to see a social worker in a hospital setting, but we are here to help. Whether a patient needs social, financial or emotional resources and support, our team is here for them," says Kyle Finucane, MSW, social work team lead in Chester County Hospital's Emergency Department.
Here are 8 surprising ways Chester County Hospital's social workers can make your stay easier from the time you walk in the doors through your recovery.
1. Help with discharge and your post-hospital plans.
So you're told you're stable for discharge from the hospital — now what? You may have questions about your follow-up appointments or taking medication. You may even be anxious to leave, since you won't have the same team of medical professionals caring for you every hour of the day.
Social workers can equip you to manage your recovery and feel confident in your next steps. They can:
- Work with your insurance company to receive prior authorizations for post-acute care needs (rehab, medications, equipment, etc.)
- Set you up with a primary care provider for your follow-up care
- Connect you with community resources to provide you with basic needs and security, such as clothing, food, or a place to stay
- Refer you to mental and behavioral health counseling services to help with issues like anxiety, depression, and addiction
- Assist with coordinating transportation back home or to your next place of care
In some cases, your social worker may even be able to prevent delays in getting you discharged. Some common delays, such as insurance clearance, can keep you in the hospital longer than necessary, but social workers are experts at getting you to the comfort of your own home as quickly and safely as possible.
2. Coordinate where you’re going after you leave the hospital.
Remember — your providers are not expecting you to suddenly take care of yourself if you're not able to, and you may need to go somewhere where trained professionals can help you recover.
At discharge, social workers can help with placement in a facility that specializes in post-acute care. This may be recommended by your physician to continue the treatment that began at the hospital which will keep you healthy and avoid a trip back to the hospital. Some of the options include:
- Skilled nursing facilities, for short- or long-term rehabilitation
- Acute rehabilitation hospitals, for intensive physical, occupational and speech therapies
- Long term acute care hospitals, for patients with complex medical needs requiring specialized care
- Assisted living homes, for those patients who may need continued assistance with their activities of daily living
- Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, for inpatient detox or other levels of care
- Facilities to assist with mental health services, for inpatient and outpatient care
Your social worker will work with your insurance to help get these covered for you — or find other resources in the community that can assist you if you don't have insurance. Social workers know how to work with insurance companies effectively and efficiently, so you can focus on getting better.
3. Help you find ways to afford your medication.
It's common to be prescribed medications for after you leave the hospital, but those expenses can add up and cause an extra, unnecessary burden.
Along with your care team — which may include an on-site pharmacist — your social worker can potentially make those prescriptions more affordable by helping you find generic or less expensive versions of your medication.
If your physician prescribes a medication, make sure that you take it properly so you don't end up back in the hospital. Your social worker can help make that easier and less burdensome on your bank account.
4. Provide you with the medical equipment you need to recover.
Recovery isn't easy, and you may need some equipment to help you move around, breathe efficiently, or monitor your own health. Whether you've been planning for your hospital stay or not, you may require some medical equipment you weren't prepared to track down.
Social workers can help you get the necessary resources you need, such as:
- Walkers, wheelchairs, canes, or crutches
- Hospital beds
- Oxygen machines and accessories
- Commode chairs
- Pressure-reducing beds and mattresses
Chester County Hospital has many of these devices on-site, and a social worker can get them to you as soon as you need them. If you need something ordered, they can work with your insurance company to avoid reimbursement delays and get your equipment to you as soon as possible.
5. Follow up on your recovery while you're at home.
Social work doesn't end when you leave the hospital.
"Your transition from the hospital to home can be stressful, but this is a critical time to stay healthy and avoid returning to the hospital. Social workers can continue to be a resource to help you during this transitional period and reduce your chances of readmission," says Anne-Marie Shea, MSW, social work team lead for Chester County Hospital's inpatient services.
Chester County Hospital's Continuum of Care program has 3 full-time social workers whose primary job is to make sure your recovery at home goes as smoothly as possible. They may call you after discharge, and their goal is to keep you healthy — and out of the hospital.
If you've recently been discharged from Chester County Hospital, a social worker may call you to follow up on:
- Your health, such as if you're taking your prescribed medications and eating healthy
- Follow-up appointments with your physicians
- Homecare, such as how often your homecare is visiting
- Financial issues, such as difficulty paying for your medications or accessing transportation
6. Connect you with other resources in the hospital and in the community.
Social workers play many roles in the hospital community, so they know many of the resources available to you. There are many services in the community that you can take advantage of, and your social worker can connect you with the ones you need, including:
- Mental health and substance abuse services
- Food bank resources
- Office of Aging programs
- Private duty home health aide information
Beyond the walls of the hospital, social workers take an active role in the communities surrounding Chester County. From post-hospital care to volunteer organizations, your social worker can point you in the right direction for your needs, including:
- Nursing homes
- Charitable healthcare organizations, such as Community Volunteers in Medicine
7. Provide comfort.
Being in the hospital can bring up many emotions for you and your family. Whether you're there for a simple procedure or a more serious condition, it can be overwhelming and scary. Social workers are there for you during this time, and they can:
- Answer your questions about your care
- Ensure you understand what your medical care team is doing
- Provide comfort for your family and answer any questions they may have
- Get in touch with your loved ones to keep them up to date
- Contact a chaplain, such as a minister, pastor, or rabbi
Their goal is your comfort and understanding as you and your family navigate this challenging time.
8. Assist with your child's hospital stay.
Social workers are critical in the Emergency Department and inpatient settings, but their job doesn't end with adults. Whether your child is brand new to the world or 10 years old — a social worker who specifically works with children is available to support you and your child during their hospital stay.
When it comes to your child, it's completely normal to have a lot of questions. You want the best care for them — and so does their social worker. At Chester County Hospital, social workers can:
- Help you apply for financial services, such as Medicaid or Social Security Disability benefits
- Provide information on community services for women and children, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and early intervention services
- Provide consultations for suspected abuse cases
- Assist with babies who are going through withdrawal, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome
- Refer children to behavioral and mental health services
The social workers that work in the pediatrics department know and love children. Their use of kid-friendly language and concern for your child will help you and your child feel comforted and understood throughout their time at the hospital.
Social Workers: Your One-Stop Shop at Chester County Hospital
If you find yourself at the hospital for yourself or someone you care about and a social worker enters the room, take a moment to think about what you need. Do you have questions, but you're not sure who to ask? Are you concerned about what happens next? Are you overwhelmed by discharge planning?
Hospital social workers are there to help you, advocate for you, and make your hospital stay easier. In the hospital, you should be focusing on getting healthy — let a social worker take care of the rest.
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: