DOVER -- The community hospital on the 21st century is rapidly evolving. Previously the patient's contact with the hospital was to care for the patient's illness or injury during the few days of their admission. Today, hospitals like Union Hospital in Dover are helping patients and families with social, emotional, environmental, financial, and support needs before, during, and after their time in the hospital.

"Hospital Social Workers are important members of the patient care team," according to Jessica Kinsey, manager of Social Services at Union Hospital. "We help identify the patient's future needs even before they are discharged from the hospital to better enable them to recover at home and find other needed services available in the community."

Kinsey says Social Workers in the hospital are especially important to patients when there are other issues affecting their ability to recover from illness, injury, or live with a chronic or terminal condition.

"In addition to the medical issues our patients face, many also struggle with multiple social, financial, emotional, or housing problems," Kinsey said. "The Social Worker helps the patient and their family develop a plan of care for the patient after they leave the hospital, make arrangements for home care and medical equipment, coordinate follow-up treatment, and contact social service agencies in the community for additional support."

The role of Social Workers at Union Hospital is expanding to meet the changing nature of healthcare in the 21st century. This year, Union Hospital's Emergency Department staff will add a Social Worker to the staff. ED physician, Ellen Potts, D.O. says this will be an important expansion of the services provided to ED patients.

"The needs of our patients in the Emergency Department are vast and varied, often requiring more than just the services provided by the doctors and nurses, so we welcome the Social Workers to our team," Potts said.

Kinsey said Union Hospital has employed Social Workers for 25 years. Today, the staff includes three licensed Social Workers with a fourth to be added to serve the Emergency Department.

"March is National Social Workers Month, a time to appreciate how Social Workers change the lives of people, families and communities," Kinsey said. "The constant growth, demands and changes in health care have reinforced the need for Social Workers in most settings where medical services are provided," she said.