Paying it forward



“Oh wow! Your job definitely sounds challenging, but I bet it’s rewarding, too.” I think social workers are often accustomed to these kinds of comments. In fact, one rewarding aspect for social workers at Texas Children’s Hospital, including myself, is our ability to provide support to other care team members throughout the hospital system. Whether it’s a nurse, dietitian, physician, child life specialist, chaplain or housekeeping staff member, our social workers strive to create a safe, inclusive working environment where care members feel comfortable seeking support and guidance, in both formal and non-formal settings. In our department of nearly 100 staff members, our team is always available for one another, and we’re present both professionally and personally during the hardest of days.

Over the past two years, our NICU social work team has led a monthly support group for NICU nurses across the hospital. This began after a NICU nurse came to one of our social workers seeking support for their unit. This interaction sparked the idea to host a safe, confidential space for NICU nurses to voice feelings, concerns and much more. These social workers often provide short self-care activities, including brief yoga stretches, cookie decorating, coloring mandalas, mindfulness exercises and much more. The support groups take place in the late afternoon or evening to also extend support to night shift nurses. A nurse who regularly attends this group once said, “[our] social workers have continuously supported our nursing staff through the monthly groups, and they always remind us to practice self-care. They always surprise us, educate us, listen to our concerns and make us smile.”

While we enjoy supporting our fellow co-workers, we’re also lucky to receive support from other hospitals and their social work departments during difficult times. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, we received a generous donation through a connection with the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, whose social work department provided gifts cards to Target, Home Depot, Amazon and many more places for our staff members impacted by the storm. While our social workers were hard at work helping Texas Children’s families impacted by Harvey, it felt great to be recognized and supported by another hospital. These kind actions alleviated some of the financial burden placed on our staff members, and allowed them to breathe easier during a horrific time.

When the 2017 Las Vegas shooting took place this past October, the morale committee within our department had an idea to “pay it forward,” especially after we received this generous gift during Harvey. We wanted to recognize the social workers at the Sunrise Hospital of Las Vegas, who were hard at work connecting families with shooting victims and providing grief and bereavement support, along with multiple other resources to those impacted by the tragic event. We rallied together and raised money to provide these social workers a free lunch from their favorite Mexican restaurant – a small, but hopefully meaningful act of kindness. We hope that “paying it forward” can continue through hospital social work departments across the nation.

While social workers might have challenging jobs, we’re fueled by opportunities to support others in our field. Please follow these links if you’re interested in learning more about Texas Children’s Social Work department or our employee assistance program.