10th March 2021

A day in the life of our social work team

Take a behind-the-scenes look at snapshots from a typical day with the Specialist Palliative Care Social Work Team at St Richard’s Hospice.

From providing emotional and practical help to patients and their families, to training school staff to support bereaved students – the team’s days are busy and varied.

The Social Work Team are:

  • Sarah Popplestone-Helm, Head of Family Support Services
  • Rebecka Sparks, Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker
  • Andy Schwab, Specialist Palliative Care Social Worker
  • Sally Padget, Gateway Social Worker
  • Pam Woodall, Child and Family Support Practitioner

8.15am – Rebecka: “I arrive at hospice, change into scrubs and put a surgical mask on ready for my first appointment on the In-patient Unit (IPU). This has changed due to the pandemic, we would usually wear normal clothes.”

9am – Sarah: “The Family Support Team Manager and I (supported by our amazing admin team) meet twice a week to go through the referrals for the team. We discuss each referral in depth and allocate the client to a service within the team. We triage up to 40 new referrals each week.”

9.30am – Rebecka: “I meet with a patient on IPU at the hospice. I support her to complete memory cards for her grandchildren to have after she dies.”

Examples of memory cards

10.30am – Andy: “Every week, I run the Men’s Space patient group. We originally met in person but the pandemic means we now meet on Zoom. This has been hugely successful. It’s a social group, but recently we had live music – and one group member gave a presentation on the history of canals and waterways. After the group I spend about half an hour on admin.”

11am – Pam: “It’s time for a video call to support a child experiencing bereavement. I have to be quite inventive with ways of keeping children and young people engaged in video calls, while listening and supporting. This can involve quizzes, games and sharing activity sheets, drawing and stories.”

12pm – Sally: “My role sees me follow-up on referrals coming through to the Gateway Team. I make the initial assessment, before passing through to triage with the Family Support Team. The initial assessment includes obtaining relevant background information, assessing what support is required, and ensuring relevant consent is obtained.”

12.30pm: Rebecka: “Another virtual video session with a teenager whose grandfather is unwell. Explored coping strategies and made a self-care list.”

Sarah Popplestone-Helm

1pm – Andy: “I usually book calls for around this time. This may be pre or post bereavement emotional support, advice for people living in the community, or anything else that comes my way.”

2.30pm – Sally: “Yoga session for an individual via Zoom. I completed my yoga teacher training in summer 2019 and undertook yoga for cancer teacher training in 2020. I have been able to bring together my skills as a social worker with my yoga training and have found it a very successful way of supporting people.”

3pm – Rebecka: “Family meeting on IPU with another patient, family and one of the hospice doctors to discuss discharge options. Following discussion, we aim for the person to go home and I will need to start organising carers going in. I will be starting this paperwork tomorrow.”

3.30pm – Pam: “I liaise with schools and school counsellors, and use an interpreter to contact a parent of one of my clients.”

Rebecka Sparks
Rebecka Sparks

4pm – Sarah: “Volunteer supervision. I supervise two groups of Family Support Volunteers. These amazing volunteers support people in pre and post death situations. Our supervision is totally confidential and it gives the volunteers the opportunity to talk about the focus of their work, how they are supporting people and how they are managing emotionally.”

4.30pm – Andy: “On a call with a teacher at a local school for children with special educational needs. I’m delivering a workshop for them in May regarding supporting children with autistic spectrum conditions. This is even more important at the moment as we are unable to visit schools. At the moment, a lot of my work is supporting and supervising teachers who have students who are struggling before or after bereavement.”

5pm – Rebecka: “After my last one-to-one session supporting a child, or young person, I complete any admin tasks and finish for the day.”

5.30pm – Andy: “By this time, I’ve finished for the day and am out on a walk to process, reflect and think about the events of the day. Social work education has a significant focus on resilience.  A walk is a healthy way to signpost the end of work.”