March is National Social Work Month. We’re paying tribute to our nation’s 600,000 social workers by taking you through an “average” day with a nursing home social worker.

Kim Allred is Social Service Designee for Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center, and is 2017 President of ANHA’s Activity & Social Service Auxiliary. In this article, she takes you on a minute-by-minute journey of one of her work days.

By Kim Allred

7:50 a.m. When I arrive to work each day, there is something comforting about our building. Everyone is preparing for the day and the smell of breakfast cooking reminds me of spending the night at my grandparents’ house and waking up to a full table when I was a child.

Social Service Director Alyssa Aikens, LBSW, and Rehab Unit Secretary Amanda Henley discuss a patient's discharge plan.

Social Service Director Alyssa Aikens, LBSW, and Rehab Unit Secretary Amanda Henley discuss a patient’s discharge plan.

7:55 a.m. I clock in, stop by our departmental mailbox to retrieve notes left for our department by the overnight nursing staff and make my way to the social services office. I exchange “good morning” greetings with several residents along the way.

8:15a.m. Review notes left by the overnight staff, read emails that are be pertinent to the morning meetings and make a list of tasks that must be accomplished today. At few minutes in the office each morning helps set the course for the day.

8:30 a.m. Social Service Director Alyssa Aikens, LBSW, attends the daily interdisciplinary team meeting as I continue recording information on people we’ve recently admitted or discharged.

9:00 a.m. Alyssa and I attend the daily discharge planning meeting. The therapy department, business office and MDS staff are present as well. We’re confirming plans for two people who will return home tomorrow and making plans for the three people who should discharge to their home in the next two days.

9:30 a.m. Alyssa heads to the rehabilitation area of our building to interview patients and prepare assessments. I begin walking the halls where our long-term care residents live and interview several of them to update their assessments. Each day we visit different residents. We initiate a brief interview for mental status and we ask them questions regarding their mood. These are some of the important tools used to identify the needs of our residents so we can develop a suitable plan of care. Visiting with our residents is one of the most important things I do. I can pick up a lot of visual cues by talking face-to-face. Some days this feels very time consuming, but it’s time well spent. Observing artwork on the walls, crafts on the shelf and the selection of books on a table in a resident’s room helps you get to know them better and understand their needs. Hanceville Nursing & Rehab Center can care for up to 208 people at a time. That’s a lot of people to regularly interview. I am thankful for a hardworking co-worker that shares the responsibility.

From the left, MDS Coordinator Angie Hudson, RN, Admissions Coordinator Theresa Jones and Kim Allred review care plans for long-term care residents.

From the left, MDS Coordinator Angie Hudson, RN, Admissions Coordinator Theresa Jones and Kim Allred review care plans for long-term care residents.

11:00 a.m. While talking to our long-term care residents, I’m notified of broken glasses that need repair, a pair of pants that are missing and a resident that would like to change rooms. It’s a social workers job to take care of these types of requests.

11:30 a.m. Alyssa continues to work on assessments and discharge planning for rehab patients. I make phone calls to families regarding the items needing attention with our long-term care residents and document other things I learned from the interviews.

12:30 p.m. Recharging my batteries by eating lunch with some of my coworkers in the dining area. Although we’re co-workers, I consider them my friends. I’ve worked here for almost 10 years and sometimes take for granted the laughter and the encouragement from coworkers.

1:00 p.m. Quickly check emails, return phone calls and tie up loose ends from the morning before prioritizing my afternoon tasks. During this time, one of our residents, Benny, drops by my office. He wants to tell me about seeing his grandkids over the weekend. He calls me “grandma” because I played the part of a grandma in a Halloween skit last fall, and because, well, I am a new, proud grandmother! Although something like this is labeled an “interruption,” these are the best moments of my day. Building personal relationships with the residents builds trust which helps them open up and tell me what they really need or how they really feel about a certain situation. This leads to better quality of life and health care outcomes for the residents.

1:30 p.m. Alyssa and I continue documentation of assessments and progress notes. Yes, I spend a lot of time on documentation. We need to make sure every aspect of the care of our nursing home residents and patients is accurately recorded.

Kim Allred, left, and resident Joan Edwards. Ms. Edwards uses art as a form of expression.

Kim Allred, left, and resident Joan Edwards. Ms. Edwards uses art as a form of expression.

2:00 p.m. We break from documentation to return phone calls and follow up on email requests. One of my follow up items is requesting additional Residents Rights posters from the Alabama Nursing Home Association. Kerri at the ANHA is quick to respond, and I can check that item off my list. The ANHA is an excellent resource. Their staff keeps our nursing home up to date on regulatory changes and provides frequent educational opportunities. I have learned so much by working with the Activity & Social Services Auxiliary as well. Sharing ideas and knowledge enables me to do a better job.

3:30 p.m. We review items that should be addressed for the next day and leave notes for staff members working the overnight shift.

4:00 p.m. Our work day usually ends at 4:00 p.m. However, we often work later if family needs to meet with us after hours or if a resident needs extra assistance. You must be available when they need you.

Walking to my car, I think about everything that happened today: one of the phone calls brought an unexpected opportunity to assist someone, listening to a resident tell a story made me chuckle, employees sharing a laugh at lunch. Every day is different and unpredictable when you work in a nursing home, but it’s a career where you can truly make a difference in the lives of others. We have some incredible people working on our team and I get to be a part of it. I am thankful that God reminds me of those blessings often.