Terah Hatter can sum up her job in one word – amazing. Her job, she says, “is about caring.”

“It’s an honor to walk beside the patient and family to help them through a difficult time,” says Hatter, LMSW, a social worker for IntegraCare, which is an affiliate of Kindred at Home and an agency that provides home health, hospice and private duty nursing care in Texas.

It’s not so easy to describe a typical day for Hatter, if only because each one presents new challenges.

Each day she reviews referrals, which may come from the patient, family or the healthcare team. Patients may need to have meals delivered to their home or the patient’s primary family caregiver may need someone to stay with the patient while they run errands or even just take a break.

Hatter has a list of community resources but says she also relies on other social workers and agencies to help locate the right resources for each patient and family.

The Role of the Social WorkerOne way Hatter and other IntegraCare social workers help determine those needs is through a “life review.” She describes this review as very “conversational.” The goal, she says, is “to help shine a light on how the patient or family member coped with adversity in the past.” In understanding how people have dealt with other difficult situations, social workers at IntegraCare can help devise the most effective support plans for helping them cope with their illness or the illness of a family member.

In Hatter’s experience, the patient’s family may not all be on the same page, especially with patients in hospice care. She recalls a situation in which one family member continued to believe that the patient would recover, a belief that wasn’t shared by the medical experts or the rest of the family. While it’s a normal part of the grieving process to experience denial, Hatter says that the social worker “is likely to be the person who gives a reality check on the patient’s medical condition and progress.”

It’s a tough job, but Hatter has seen firsthand the rewards of helping families get to a place where they can focus on spending time together and working together to support the patient.

For her patients, too, she knows how beneficial it can be for them to adjust to and face their situation. In some instances, for patients in hospice care, that transition may provide an opportunity for them to accomplish a life goal, which she is happy to help make a reality. For both the patients and their families, Hatter helps pull together all the resources they will need to cope with what could be the most devastating situation they’ve encountered in their lives.

While there are social workers in many areas, including healthcare, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) describes the general role that every social worker has: “Social workers help individuals, families and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.”

By Kindred Healthcare