Social Workers Play Key Role in Patient Care at Pullman Regional Hospital

Mar 22, 2013

If a problem shared is a problem divided, our strong social work team at Pullman Regional Hospital divides and conquers the toughest of times as advocates for patients and their families.

For many people, a trip to the hospital is a turning point in their lives, and a time when they are faced with many difficult decisions. This is when Pullman Regional Hospital social workers, Katie Evermann Druffel, Jeana Boyd, and Elizabeth Hillman make it their mission to be there for patients and their families.

At Pullman Regional Hospital, patients, family members, and the care team turn to a social worker to lead the way in navigating healthcare options. They offer support and guidance through decision-making, connecting people to resources, helping create a plan of action, and providing peace of mind for patients and families.

"Many people don't know where to start," explains Jeana Boyd, LICSW. "Sometimes it's as simple as a phone call or help completing a form. Other times it's involving an entire family in a conversation about comfort care or end of life issues."

"Our job is to help people find hope—to feel hopeful," says Katie Evermann Druffel, LICSW. "It's giving patients time to have a voice."

For Elizabeth Hillman, MSW, it's fostering resiliency and being there to help. "Patients need to feel like they have someone on their side."

The role of a social worker is broad in its scope, covering the entire life span from birth to death and most often involves patients, family, care providers, and friends. "Sometimes it's the family that really needs our help," says Jeana. "We're there for them, physically and emotionally."

"It's about meaningful connections, fostering human relationships and facilitating conversations," she says.

The team also works with people who are not patients at Pullman Regional Hospital. One goal the team aspires to achieve is to be more visible and accessible to the community. The team has plans to extend their services to primary care providers to contribute to the hospital's mission to support community health.

"The social and emotional issues of healthcare cannot be overlooked. Biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs all play a strong role with health and illness," explains Katie.

In addition to providing patients with readily available access to a social worker, the benefit of a team approach is the collective expertise and experience. Katie, Jeana, and Elizabeth all have a Master of Social Work degree and are, or are working on becoming, licensed clinical social workers—the highest level of certification.

What once existed seven years ago as a part time position at Pullman Regional Hospital has grown today into a three person team. Katie's colleagues attribute the successful development of the social work department to her leadership and passion to play an integral role in the care of patients. "She had a vision to create a successful team; we're very lucky to have Katie," says Jeana.

At Pullman Regional Hospital, social workers are an integral part of the care team, and have had a profound impact on patient satisfaction and readmission rates. "By addressing what our patients will need at home, before they go home, we're able to keep them happy and healthy at home and prevent them from needing to come back to the hospital," explains Jeana.

A physician's referral isn't required to get assistance from a Pullman Regional Hospital social worker. Patients, family members, care providers, and community members can all request to work with Katie, Jeana or Elizabeth.

This team approach extends beyond their roles as hospital social workers, as they are involved with the Palouse Feeding Team, (a coalition of care providers dedicated to providing therapy to children with eating and swallowing issues) and Elizabeth leads a support and education group for parents and caregivers called Raising Healthy Kids.

"I value working with adults with mental illness, and I love working with the kids," says Elizabeth. "I place a real value in giving a voice to the most vulnerable."

For Katie, giving beyond yourself has been part of her family values for her entire life. Her parents often took in foster children, and her grandfather instilled in her the belief that she could always make a difference.

Even as a very young child, it was always in Jeana's nature to be nurturing and giving. "I was always bringing home the new kids to have dinner with my family. I was naturally drawn to people who were suffering or down. On many occasions, and to my mother's horror, I would empty my closet and give away all of my clothes."

While these four women view their part as behind the scenes, the peace of mind they bring to hundreds of lives surely earns them a leading role at Pullman Regional Hospital. During National Social Worker month, and every month, Pullman Regional Hospital recognizes Katie, Jeana, Elizabeth and Jessica for their exceptional work and their generosity.

Contact: Megan Guido, Chief Marketing and Community Relations Officer
Pullman Regional Hospital

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