In more than 20 years’ experience as a social worker, Christina Gargoura has lost track of the amount of people she has cared for through difficult times.
But one who stands out is a woman in her 50s who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after her abusive husband died unexpectedly.
“Her ability to cope with the diagnosis was intricately linked to other difficulties in her life and her lack of support network,” Christina said.
“I helped her for over three years – including through a cancer relapse that she blamed on the stress – with things including financial support when she was unable to work, emotional support and counselling, and crisis support during a family member’s acute mental health episode.
“I often think about her and wonder how she’s doing now.”
March 17 is World Social Work Day 2020, a day to celebrate those in our hospitals and community health centres who are champions for social justice, self-determination and human rights.
Social workers are university-trained in a wide variety of skills including counselling, crisis intervention and service access, all with the aim of improving patient care and outcomes.
Christina is currently the social work team leader at Auburn Hospital, and her previous experience includes Westmead Hospital outpatient oncology and Liverpool Hospital emergency department.
“Social workers try to make a difference by creating a fairer society and we do that through relationships with patients with our skills, knowledge and advocacy,” Christina said.
“We have an unwavering commitment to strengthening communities and enhancing wellbeing. People may be at a disadvantage for a variety of reasons, and it’s our job to educate and empower them so ultimately they can help themselves.”
Christina said advocating for people through difficult times is an emotionally draining task, and a big part of her responsibility as team leader is to care for her staff.
She promotes self-care, including being mindful of your own needs, taking time out when needed, and regularly doing things to unwind – especially spending quality time with loved ones.
Social workers are available to any patient in any area of Western Sydney Local Health District, including hospital wards and outpatient clinics.
If you would like to speak to a social worker, please ask any staff member to put you in touch.