Social Workers have always been a vital part of the clinical care teams at VNA Health Group. From helping patients and their families adjust to changes in their health and independence to educating them about available community resources, Social Workers contribute to helping our patients achieve their highest level of health. We are proud of our social workers who help patients and families make the most of every day.
In observance of national Social Workers month, we sat down with social workers from across VNA Health Group to ask how their work in the home health and hospice environment enhances the lives of our patients.
Adept at Adapting to Patients’ Evolving Needs
There is a common theme that is shared among our social workers; no single day is the same. For any one of our clinicians, traveling to patients’ homes can bring the unexpected. Yet, nothing is deeply personal than one’s private home and it is an extraordinary privilege that each of our clinicians cherish deeply.
“Every patient and family has different needs and I try to hone in and help them. I’m in my car a lot but I really love the diversity. I love that every day feels different,” said Betty Jampel, LCSW, a social worker with Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice. “I love my work, I feel I’m as enthusiastic now as when I started 30 years ago, and if I had to do it again I would!”
Social workers are trained to be ready to adapt and change plans quickly to meet the evolving needs of patients.
“No day is the same. Sometimes emergencies develop and you have to change your plans. Sometimes those challenges are more interesting. You have to be very adaptable. If you can’t go with the flow it’s hard to be in this field,” said Robin Barbato, LCSW a Hospice social worker with VNA of Central Jersey in Ocean County.
More than 9 years of Robin’s 16 years of experience are in hospice. Robin cares for individuals who face a serious illness on a regular basis, a job that can be emotionally demanding at times.
“It can be sad but there are very beautiful moments because you get to see people who love their family members.”
Social Workers Agree, There’s No Place like Home
Nearly 70 years ago, Judy Garland coined the phrase “there’s no place like home” in cinema classic The Wizard of Oz. This still holds true today almost seven decades later.
“It’s very rare that you run into someone that doesn’t want to stay home,” said home health social worker Eileen McDermott, LCSW, “Being home means that they are independent and people want to be independent. It’s our training to see the person as a whole, not just physical, but emotional and spiritual too.”
VNA’s home health patients can expect a wide range of support and care services after they are admitted into our care. Patients will benefit from the ongoing collaboration between social workers, nurses, therapists and other clinical staff, as well as to the digital health tools available through our Connected Health Institute.
“I find myself collaborating with other teams a lot. Sometimes we go out together with nurses, sometimes with the therapists too. It’s a lot easier now with technology. We can see everyone’s notes on [secure] tablets and smartphones. It makes all of our jobs easier and provides quality in-home care for the patient,” said Nancy Smith, LCSW a home health social worker with VNA of Englewood.
Providing the best care possible takes a dedicated team and state-of-the-art technology. A single nurse, social worker, therapist or doctor becomes a team of clinicians when they are connected with the help of technology, which leads to better care and a better experience for patients.
“There are a lot of collaborations with nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists. We’re always communicating with one another,” said Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice social worker Angela Wrigley, LCSW. “Sometimes we find out that the patient used to make meals but now they aren’t able to, so then I will help see what their options are, whether they might need meals on wheels or something of the like.”
As we celebrate Social Worker month, join us to thank all of our wonderful social workers for everything that they do. Read more about the social workers we talked with in the bios below:
Meet Our Social Workers
Robin Barbato, LCSW
VNA of Central Jersey Hospice
Robin had been with Barnabas Health Hospice for 7 years prior to joining VNA Health Group after its joint venture partnership with RWJBarnabas Health. Of her 16 years in social work, 9 of them have been in hospice.
When asked about what makes her the most proud about her position, Robin said:
“There have been so many little moments where people just generally thank us for being there and helping them. I think overall one of the nicest things about it is I get to see people at their best at such a hard time. This might sound cheesy, but it definitely helps my faith in humanity”
Betty Jampel, LCSW
Barnabas Health Hospice
Betty has been a social worker for more than30 years spending most of her career in psychiatric social work. Betty joined Barnabas Health Hospice as a social worker in May of 2015.
Betty’s interest in hospice and end-of-life care began after she observed the kind of care her brother received while on hospice.
When asked about her proudest moment as a hospice social worker, Betty said:
“I worked with a gentleman who was 105 years of age. His greatest wish was to remain at home and not die alone. He just wanted to be supported by his family and community. We worked in the community to provide a lot of support in the home. We had a birthday celebration for him and many people came [to celebrate him being a centenarian]. It was so gratifying. Later he died at home surrounded by friends and family. We created these memory bear dolls for his godchild. The connections we made even afterwards, with his loved ones and throughout the community really touched me.”
(Barnabas Health Hospice offers a wonderful service to families that helps preserve the memory of a loved one – the Memory Bear Project, learn more here.)
Eileen McDermott, MSW, LCSW
VNA of Central Jersey home Care
Eileen McDermott earned her social worker credentials in 1987, giving her more than 30 years of experience. Eileen’s entire career has been in home health, starting as a home care social worker three decades ago. Eileen joined VNA of Central Jersey seven years ago.
Eileen was always fascinated by people’s life stories, something that she believes drew her closer to her profession. Early in her career, Eileen recalls with fondness the stories the patients she cared for who had fought in World War I.
When asked what moment in her career that made her the most proud, Eileen replied:
“I find it hard to single out one particular patient or moment. I really feel like every day when you’re heading out and meeting whoever, you’re just learning something from every patient that you meet. Even 30 years later, you are still learning new things every day.”
Nancy Smith, LCSW
VNA of Englewood
Nancy has been a social worker for 23 years. She joined Englewood Home Health in 2007, which later became VNA of Englewood in 2011, a joint-venture partnership with Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. After returning to school in her mid-30s, Nancy chose a career in social work because it seemed to fit her personality and she felt a calling. .
Nancy finds social worker very gratifying and does what she can to “go the extra mile” to ensure her patients have the care and resources they need.
When asked what moment in her career that made her the most proud, Nancy replied:
“It’s the moments when people live alone and don’t have a lot of interactions. They say to me “I really enjoyed your visit can you come back?” It means a lot to me. It’s nice when you put service in place that has really helped them and they’ll let you know it!”
Angela Wrigley, MSW, LSW
Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice
Angela is a fairly recent graduate, earning her master’s degree in social work in May 2015. She joined Barnabas Health Home Care as an intern in September 2014 and then she was hired full time after her graduation.
Angela said that she always knew she wanted to be in the health profession. Before attending grad school, she worked with individuals with development disabilities and then transitioned into a role working with individuals with mental disabilities. Later she began working with the Barnabas Health Hospice team and discovered that her work in hospice matched well with her skills and personality.
When asked what moment in her career that made her the most proud, Angela replied:
“When you can be with a patient and their family throughout their journey in the end-of-life, some of those moments have been very rewarding and stand out to me. There’s something very powerful with helping facilitate that journey and helping them achieve their goal when they say they want to die around their family in their home. The feedback from families can be very rewarding.”