‘I’ve booked flights to India and found accommodation for sheep’: Celebrating those who care on World Social Work Day

Westmead Hospital social workers Kylie Holmes, Lara Zabala and Adepeju “Peejay” Onamusi.

From helping a family say goodbye to a loved one to finding accommodation for sheep, no two days are alike for a social worker.

Western Sydney Local Health District employs 275 social workers in services ranging from mental health to medical wards and youth health.

World Social Work Day 2022 (March 15) is an opportunity to celebrating their invaluable work in caring for patients and families every day.

Meet some social workers across Western Sydney Local Health District

Emilee Moog, Mental Health Services, Cumberland Hospital

Emilee Moog

Emilee works in inpatient mental health units assisting the multidisciplinary team with patient assessments, discharge, referrals, case management and more.

“I’ve booked flights to India, found accommodation for sheep, and been proposed to by a patient more than once; each day is different and I love it,” Emilee said.

“Every patient we come into contact with takes a little piece of our hearts with them. One that stands out, though, is a young person I worked with who initially did not want anything to do with me. Probably two years into our therapeutic relationship she came to me and said: ‘thank you. You never judged me or tried to change me you just listened and walked the journey with me’.”

Vivien MacJohn, Acute Care, Blacktown Hospital

Vivien supports patients and families in intensive care, emergency and medical wards at Blacktown Hospital, including with counselling, bereavement and referral to support services.

“The most challenging part of the role is being with families at their lowest and finding a way to hold that space, I don’t know if you ever become desensitised to it. I feel the frustration and sadness of my patients firsthand when the system lets them down,” Vivien said.

Vivien MacJohn

“At the same time, I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding job. I keep every thank you card and email from patients and loved ones, and I hold all the little wins close. That’s the stuff that keeps you going on the tough days and makes it all worthwhile in the end.”

Adepeju “Peejay” Onamusi, Stroke, Aged Care and Rehabilitation, Westmead Hospital

Peejay originally completed a degree in nursing before moving into social work, where she supports people and families through unexpected illness and disability.

“We are often supporting people through some of their most challenging and difficult times of their lives. This role really does put life into perspective, and you learn to be grateful for all the blessings in our life that we would normally take for granted,” she said.

She remembers the first patient for whom she needed to find a nursing home placement, who was extremely reluctant to sell his family home and leave the life he knew in Sydney to be closer to family in the Central Coast.

Andi Mclennan

“Two weeks later I got a massive bouquet of flowers and pictures of him at Avoca Beach.”

Andi Mclennan, Auburn Hospital

Andi is a fourth-year social work student doing her first placement in the social work department at Auburn Hospital.

“Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic the majority of my degree has been delivered through online platforms, making social and genuine human interaction difficult – which is quite a big deal to an aspiring social work student who thrives of human contact and conversation!” Andi said.

“This placement has offered me valuable insight into the diverse needs of people from different cultural backgrounds and lived experiences. By working alongside other healthcare professionals I have been able to engage with different professional outlooks, perspectives and work within a coherent team environment.”