NICU Social worker, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I began my career in Emergency Department medicine, working with patients in crisis. From acute psychiatrics illness to child maltreatment, and everything in-between. I loved connecting with patients and creating a sense of clam in a time of great chaos, and learned so much about human resiliency. Through that journey, I realized my real passion was working in the perinatal world. Now I get to still create that sense of safety and calm in the stressful world of the NICU. I continue to be amazed by parents strength, and am honored to be allowed on their journey with them.
Why do you like working in perinatal health?
I love working in perinatal health! I love the fact that you are seeing a journey start from the ground up. For my practice, I love knowing I am intervening and helping a family through possibly their greatest low, to build on their incredible strengths and set them up for success. I love seeing the growth and change in families, and their great ability to love their child.
Tell us about working with The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation.
The Colette Tisdahl Foundation as helped so many of my families. Many times I have families that are in the NICU for over one year. Not only does that bring financial struggles of medical bills, but also adds in the stress of keeping life moving outside the walls of the hospital. May families have other children at home, and need to choose between ensuring a safe place for their child or bonding with their child in the NICU. Financial barriers are often some of he most challenging to work with, and can create lasting issues with bonding and stress. Luckily, Colette Louise Tisdahl hears these struggles and helps by assisting with bills, food, or gas. This means the world to families and can truly make the difference on when a child can go home.
How would you describe the importance of social workers?
Social work is one of the most misunderstood professions. I cannot tell you how many times a person will say “oh I could never do your job!” However, not many people understand what we do. We are critical in not only emotional support and bedside counseling, but ensuring a patient is set up for a safe and successful life at home. We understand the challenges outside the hospital, and work towards finding solutions. We advocate for needs, and have a mind that holds obscure resources at the ready. Think of a Swiss Army Knife- that is a social worker’s brain; ready for anything. It is often times a thankless job. When you look at awards and notoriety, social workers are rarely nominated. This is not because they do not do their work or are not appreciated; its because they make a tireless job full of upset and disappointment look easy. They truly hold other’s pain and struggles and help work with families to find solutions. There is rarely a magic “fix” to the complexities of human life and emotional, and that is a wonderful and beautiful thing. I am amazed by my coworkers on a daily basis, and feel they are the toughest and most empathic people I know.
What advice would you give families in crisis due to pregnancy complications, NICU stays, or loss?
NEVER be ashamed to ask for help. The stigma of thinking a parent should hold their pain alone is so harmful to ones mental health. Ask for help, share your story (should you wish), and know you are not alone.
Best advice ever received: Never use the phrase “I understand.” As a very young social worker, I accidently slipped and stated this to a mom. While I instantly wanted to take those words back, it was the greatest lesson of my career. I reflect on this experience daily in my practice and educate other providers on how those two words can be the most hurtful to a person in crisis.