Social workers fulfill patient needs; create better outcomes
This month, we celebrate and honor more than 700,000 social workers nationwide who make life better for others. They connect people with sources for basic needs such as food, medical care, housing, clothing, financial assistance and more.
At WellMed, more than 130 social workers throughout the enterprise help patients get the services they need for the best health care outcome.
Meet Crystal Sierra
Crystal is a social worker manager assigned to the El Paso, Texas; and New Mexico markets. She has 11 social workers who report to her, but she is clearly hands-on when it comes to supporting her team.
“The role of being a manager for social workers is unique, because we are usually led by a nurse. Being a social worker allows me to better understand and support our team,” Crystal said.
The position comes with its fair share of challenges. Crystal was asked to direct the team right in the middle of the pandemic.
“We were hit very hard. We lost a lot of patients and their families were reaching out for help. The needs tripled for patients and I had to make sure our employees were ok.
“My team is very self-driven and highly motivated,” she said. “They are a great group of people.”
Social workers assess patients’ living conditions and connect them with community resources to help fill gaps so they can live a healthier life. They make arrangements for everything from food to housing to guardianship.
“We get our fair share of very sad situations and share of gratifying situations. Our patients don’t know what’s attainable, so there’s a lot of educating that goes with the job,” Crystal said. “It can be very rewarding.”
Crystal shared a story about a patient referral for prescription assistance she received in November 2020 that shows just how confusing and tedious obtaining certain services can be for a patient. That’s where the social worker steps in.
“The patient was not taking two of his medications due to the cost. After doing much research, I learned of programs that would help pay for the medications.”
“I assisted with the application, obtained supporting documents and delivered them to the PCP office. The application was incorrectly completed at first. It took numerous calls and visits to the PCP office, but eventually, the patient received the meds at no cost and was incredibly grateful.”
Crystal helped the patient renew the application for medication assistance again the past two years. The patient’s wife contacted her later to thank her. The wife became eligible for Medicare in January 2022.
Without a second thought, she said she knew she wanted to have a plan that was associated with WellMed due to the social work team and ongoing support with her spouse.
“It’s so beautiful when the call comes in and the patients know we will be here to provide them with support, guidance and assistance to ensure they have access to medications and support needed to ensure quality of life.”