“I salute the social work team at Groote Schuur Hospital” – Lindsay Van Der West
Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) values self-reflections to enable employees to take a step back, reflect on the current COVID-19 situation, integrate learnings, plan and celebrate both personal and professional accomplishments. The employee who will reflect this week is Lindsay van der Westhuizen, a Social Worker at Groote Schuur Hospital.
“Being a Social Worker at the hospital includes different interactions with the patients. This includes counselling of patients to support them and to educate them about their diagnosis. [The] placement of patients is also vital and for this it is important to understand the patient’s [living] conditions at home and to communicate with the family. We also have students coming from tertiary and international institutions for their practical placements that must be trained by staff, and sadly during [the] COVID-19 [pandemic] that was stopped. At the hospital there has been at increase in unknowns, patients who cannot remember where they are from and the family must be tracked down. A sad part of the job is the fact that currently there is an increase in patients just being dropped at the hospital with incorrect contact details. These patients then become long stay patients because we need to track down the family [first] once the patient has to be discharged,” is how Lindsay describes her main duties as a Social Worker for the past 11 years.
“I was on maternity leave when I heard about COVID-19 for the first time. I gave birth in early January 2020 and COVID-19 seemed very distant but eventually we had our first case at Groote Schuur Hospital. I was thinking what it would be like getting back to work [and] will we cope with the challenges. There was lots of fear but when I returned to work things were easy because there was so much protocols in place. This made me feel comfortable and enabled me to perform my duties at the hospital,” recalls Lindsay when she returned to work after maternity leave.
As a Social Worker at the hospital, work had to resume and the department had to look at different methods in order to interact with patients and families. “I had two COVID-19 wards and I needed to communicate with patients who [were] positive, needed to assist to move them to other facilities like [the] Hospital of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and [the facility at] Lagoon Beach. We were able to get new cell phones donated to the hospital for WhatsApp calls with families. Having the correct personal protective equipment was never a problem and we as staff really appreciate this.”
COVID-19 has taught all of us many lessons, and for Lindsay it was that, “I am very important to patients. They always need us [social workers]. We need to help and support them without judgement.”
Emotionally Lindsay has gone through a lot during the pandemic. “After two weeks back at work my worse fear came true. I got sick and was diagnosed with COVID-19. This is while I was still breastfeeding my baby and [while] I have a five-year-old and two-year-old at home. How do you explain to them that they can’t hug [their] mommy? I had no choice but to continue breastfeeding my baby but with a mask on. It was a difficult period but with the support of family we got through it. It was also during this time that I realised that I don’t have to do everything on my own. There are other people who are always there to help and make things easier for me. I salute the social work team at Groote Schuur Hospital. While I was sick, they made contact daily and made sure my wards were covered. A lot of them are older and have co-comorbidities, but they are still there at the hospital providing the services that the patients need.”
“COVID-19 is still with us and relationships with people [are] still vital. Smile and keep on being friendly with others, we don’t know what challenges that person has, your support might be something small to you, but it means the world to that the other person,” was the parting message from Lindsay.
Groote Schuur Hospital
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