Social workers see the person, not the illness

Social workers across Westmead Hospital to came together to celebrate
World Social Work Day on March 19.

Comforting someone on the worst day of their life may sound like a daunting task, but for social worker Anja Vukovic it’s an incredible privilege and responsibility.

March 19 marked World Social Work Day; an opportunity to recognise and celebrate social workers in all contexts, with this year’s theme of ‘promoting the importance of human relationships’.

Team leader David Fowler, a social worker with Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) for 30 years, said human relationships encompasses most of what his work comes down to.

“People define themselves around the meaning they derive from relationships,” David said.

“We focus on where a person is at, where they interpret their life and their relationships in their social context. That’s fundamental to social work; seeing the context and seeing the person, not just seeing an illness or a diagnosis.”

Anja said the human element is what inspired her to become a social worker six years ago. Her role sees her based in Westmead Hospital emergency department.

“With the way technology is changing the workforce, social work is one of the few professions that will always have a high element of human interaction,” Anja said.

“The interaction people have with us is critical because if someone has a good experience, they’re more likely to seek further support. It sets the tone for changes they will make in their own lives when they leave hospital.”

Westmead Hospital social workers Christine Vo, David Fowler and Anja Vukovic said they love helping people – even on the hard days.

Social worker Christine Vo, who is in her fifth year with WSLHD, said social workers are united by their desire to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

“The hardest part is we can’t fix everything. It’s difficult to watch people struggle,” she said.

“The rapport and the relationship we build allows us to tailor our intervention to where they’re at, and advocate for people as they move forward.”

David added: “We encourage people to have emotional courage as they cross the bridge into a new stage of their life.”

Theodora Bikou, Department Head of Social Work for Westmead and Auburn Hospitals, said World Social Work Day was an opportunity to thank her “wonderful” team.

“They are passionate about patient care and driven to contribute to excellent outcomes as part of a holistic healthcare team,” Theodora said.

“Families let us into their world and their healthcare experience, with all the challenges and difficulties that go along with it, and being part of that journey is such a privilege and carries great responsibility.”