Social Workers
July 26, 2022

VITAS Hospice Social Workers: ‘We Provide Hope’

With her fearlessness and determination, Pauline Noriega truly embodies a can-do attitude. And in doing so, she makes a difference.

Advocating for patients. Listening to loved ones. Making a difference.

This is a day in the life of a VITAS social worker. Pauline Noriega, a social worker in San Diego, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Recently, a family had a loved one in the hospital,” Pauline says. “They were having a very hard time getting in to visit. They leaned on me for the support. At the end, they got to see their loved one on a daily basis based on my advocacy.”

With her fearlessness and determination, Pauline truly embodies a can-do attitude. And in doing so, she makes a difference.

‘We Do What We Need to Do for Families and Patients’

Can-do attitude is one of the three pillars of The VITAS Difference, along with compassion and commitment. It’s about going above and beyond, being proactive and flexible, and not letting anything get in the way of what patients need. It’s a quality VITAS team members embody each and every day.

All of our colleagues fill a vital role. Our managers are there always to support us.

Pauline had the opportunity to put her can-do attitude to work early on in her time at VITAS. She was hired in the beginning of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We were all scrambling,” she says. “But a can-do attitude means that there are no challenges that we will not take on. We break through barriers. We do what we need to do for families and patients. I think our mindset is always to do the right thing, do the best thing for others. Put on that cape.”

How Hospice Social Workers Support Patients

While hospice patients are the main focus of the care VITAS provides, social workers like Pauline also provide family members with emotional, spiritual, and logistical support.

“Our role as social workers is to help families understand what the hospice process is about. We validate the feelings of the families because it is very scary initially,” she says. “You get involved, not only with just psychosocial needs but also spiritual needs.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise about hospice social work is how impactful the relationships can be—on both the patients and the social workers.

“We end up falling in love with our patients and families and realize that some of them, because of the comfort care we have provided, last longer than expected,” Pauline says.

VITAS Teams ‘Feel Like a Family’

At VITAS, our interdisciplinary care teams are built on a foundation of shared passion for the work and respect for what each of them brings to the table.

“All of our colleagues fill a vital role,” Pauline says. “Our managers are there always to support us. We have our chaplains, our home health aides, our RNs. It is very hard to manage without one of those on our team. We're always in communication with one another.”

Team members meet to discuss patient care—and also to lean on each other. “Our chaplains are wonderful,” Pauline says. “We need them just as much as our families do to get through the day.”

That doesn’t, however, mean everyone always agrees on approaches and treatment plans. However, the shared goal of the best patient care keeps everyone motivated.

“At the end of the day, everybody has their own opinions, but we all come together as a team,” Pauline says. “We're never afraid to voice what we feel, respectfully, of course. It's a wonderful environment here, too. I'm proud to be an employee with VITAS because it is very cohesive, and you feel like family.”

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