A day in the life of a social worker


This day in the life diary is written by Karen, our lovely social worker. In Karen’s role, she helps people with a life-limiting illness during what can be an incredibly stressful and difficult time to receive all of the care and support they may need, both at the hospice and at home.

7:00 Just before I leave the house, I make sure that my diabetic dog has had his food and injection! I then travel to work, hoping that the traffic is kind to me this morning.

8:00 I arrive at my office, switch my computer on and grab a coffee. I then read through my emails; I work part-time so it’s important that I am completely up to date with everything that has happened on my non-working days. Some positive news to start the day is that a care agency has emailed me confirming that they can start care this week for one of our patients. This is great news for the patient and their family, as it was his wish to go home but he needed support in place to make this a reality.

I then print out a list of the patients currently staying on our ward and check if there are any notes on the handover sheet in case any social work input is required.

As a palliative care social worker, I help to get our patients discharged so they can receive care at home or in a local nursing home, if their home is not an option. A common misconception people have about Sobell House is that people only receive care at the hospice when they are about to die, but in fact, many of our patients come in for symptom management and once their symptoms are managed, we then work with the patient, their carers and other Sobell House staff to prepare for their discharge. Once someone is discharged from Sobell House, we have regular contact and visit them to make sure they are getting the correct support and deal with any issues that may arise.

In my role, I also work with people who require additional support with safeguarding issues who may be receiving care through our Living Well service or on our ward. For example, a patient may have mental capacity issues, so I can carry out capacity assessments, particularly when there are concerns around whether the person is able to make an informed decision about going home or not.

9:15 A meeting is held on the ward every morning with the consultants, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapist, chaplain, music therapist and doctors. The nurse discusses the patients currently in our care and we work together as a multi-disciplinary team to discuss the medical and social issues for each patient and what support may be required in order to get someone home or to a nursing home.

10:30 I see a patient on the ward who would like to return home. I take him through the options available and explain that I will apply for continuing care fast track funding. This is funding provided by the NHS, and there are criteria that people need to meet in order to receive it. Fast track funding can be applied for care at home or in a nursing home placement.

The patient is feeling apprehensive about going home; he lives with his wife, and they are both worried about how they will cope, but ultimately it is his wish to be at home. I reassure him and his wife that I can help by applying for funding and arranging care at home so he gets the support he needs. I then carry out an assessment of his needs and explain that I will write this up and send it to the care agency so they know what support he requires, which the patient is happy for me to do.

11:00 I complete the paperwork for fast track funding and then go back to the patient to ask for his consent and to sign the fast track form. I then head back to my office and send off the paperwork. I speak to our occupational therapist Alice about the equipment the patient may need to return home, for example a hospital bed, which Alice will arrange to send. I then contact various care agencies to ensure he gets the right support for his return home.

12:30 I go for a quick walk around the Churchill Hospital site to get some fresh air and then grab some lunch. I finish off some paperwork for funding for continuing care.

13:00 I attend a meeting regarding our Living Well service, which is a rolling eight-week programme designed to support those living with a life-limiting illness to improve their wellbeing and manage their symptoms, so they can continue to live life with purpose. In the meeting, we discuss the current patients attending the service and if there are any social issues that require input. Today, I am asked to see a lady who has some concerns about how she is managing at home. I go to see her in the Living Well room and take her through some options on care in the community that might be available to her.

14:00 I attend a meeting on the ward with the rest of the multi-disciplinary team and update the team on the patients I’ve been supporting.

15:00 I visit a patient on the ward who is unable to return home and would like to go to a nursing home. We speak about which home might suit her and her preference of where she would like to go. I explain about the funding process and answer any questions the patient has; the main one being she would like to be close to her family so they can visit. I speak to the family and take them through the options available. The patient is very keen to see her husband, but he is unable to visit due to health conditions and mobility issues. I speak to our transport team who arrange for a driver to pick him up so he can visit his wife, which they are both very grateful for.

16:00 I finish up for the day and head home.

I enjoy my job and hope that in my role I can make the transition from hospice to home as smooth as possible for our patients, by taking it at one step at a time. It can be a stressful and difficult time for people and I hope to ease some of the practical and emotional stresses that accompany a life-limiting illness. Social workers are strong advocates for patients and their families by always considering people’s needs and wishes, and hopefully along with the rest of the professionals here at Sobell House we can support someone when they need us most.

Our social care and transport teams are fully funded through the Sobell House Hospice Charity. To help us fund services like these, please consider making a one-off or regular donation.