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Abra Kelson Explains How Social Workers Help Patients Overcome Challenges

The standard treatment isn’t always right for everyone, and part of a social worker’s job as a member of the care team is to understand the patient’s goals and what treatment is the right fit for them, said Abra Kelson, MSW, LSWA-IC, medical social work supervisor, Northwest Medical Specialties.


The standard treatment isn’t always right for everyone, and part of a social worker’s job as a member of the care team is to understand the patient’s goals and what treatment is the right fit for them, said Abra Kelson, MSW, LSWA-IC, medical social work supervisor, Northwest Medical Specialties.

Transcript

What is an example of a patient you worked with as a social worker and the challenges the patient was facing?

One of our doctors had a patient, he was very young, in his late 30s, [with] stage IV lung cancer, and he literally had no support here. He had housing concerns, transportation concerns. I want to say when he started, he didn’t have insurance either. When I initially met with him—you meet the patient where they’re at and that’s what we started with, "okay we gotta get insurance, what can we do for housing?" He was a veteran also, so working with the VA (Department of Veterans’ Affairs) to utilize those resources and getting all those basic needs met because you have to. It’s the hierarchy of needs, right? You have to start with the basic human needs before you can move up to address the more emotional and spiritual-type concerns.

One of the things, even in that first conversation, he was saying, “well, I don’t even know about treatment, and I don’t know if I want to live my life like this,” like, “I don’t know how much longer I have.” Through this conversation I’m able to work with the provider also and say, "he does have these concerns about his quality of life and how he wants to spend these days." I think through that coordination between myself, the social worker, and the physician, we’re able to help bring shared decision making to his care plan and what’s going to be best for him.

Not always is the standard treatment right for everyone. I think that, to me, is really important in my role. It’s about his role of care. It’s about the patient’s goals, and what are their goals for their life, and what’s gonna fit best for them, and being that middleman to help the patients be able to relay that information to the physician. I think sometimes it is hard for patients to talk to physicians about that because, they want to be a good patient. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it, but they want to—their doctor has these great things planned for them and can help do these things and help with outcome and things like that. So, sometimes I think they kind of shy away from saying, “well I’m really worried about my pain and I really want to continue to play the piano,” and, “if I have neuropathy that might get in the way of that.” So I’m kind of that middle person who can say, “well they’re kind of worried about this, can you make sure that you’re addressing this in the care plan?”

 
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