How social workers are helping patients in emergency departments get the care they need

Social workers play a critical role in providing care to patients and clients in many care settings across Horizon.

In the emergency departments (ED), they are helping patients by connecting them with resources in the community and intervening with cases to help avoid admission.  

Having social workers in Horizon EDs began with two projects in 2022.

Social workers were added to the interdisciplinary addictions and mental health team and added to the ED to meet with patients after they’ve been triaged.

In February, 47 percent of patients coming to the ED were diverted by social workers as part of the pilot project aimed at reducing social admissions. Social workers meet with patients after they’ve been triaged to evaluate their needs and connect with them community resources when they can be better cared for in the community.

Crystal Hicks is a clinical hospital social worker in Fredericton. She works at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital in the ED. Her role is to meet with patients to help support patients and their loved ones and decrease their length of stay by initiating interventions early.

“My role is to assist patients and their families by breaking down the challenges they face and finding the best solutions to help them,” said Crystal. “I provide counselling to patients and their families and connect them with community resources and long-term supports.”

She meets with individuals presenting to the ED for a variety of reasons, including trauma, complex medical concerns, or those seeking access to services outside hospitals, such as community clinics or programs.

By connecting patients with community resources, Crystal ensures patients get the care they need and reduce the time they spend in hospitals.

“As a health care social worker, I help patients navigate the health care system and find ways to help them improve their social and economic security.”

The pilot project of adding a social worker to the addictions and mental health ED team was expanded in the fall of 2022.

Luke Rankin is an emergency department mental health social worker based out of Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital. He’s part of an interdisciplinary team of health care staff who work with patients admitted to the ED with addictions and mental health concerns.

“On a regular day, I might complete mental health and suicide assessments, safety plans or intake assessments for our public addictions and mental health services,” said Luke. “I also provide one-at-time or single session therapy.”

“Times are really tough right now for a lot of people, and in these tough times, people are turning to the hospital as a place that they can trust,” said Luke. “People are coming to us for help, and as a social worker, I can help.”

March is social work month. To learn more about the role social workers play at Horizon, click here.