Social Workers Offer Support Amid COVID-19

Stories from the #SouthcoastFrontlines: Adrienne Boutin, LCSW, Social Worker

Adrienne Boutin, a #SouthcoastFrontlines Hero, is a full-time social worker in the St. Luke’s Emergency Department. There are so many different roles that social workers play in assisting their patients. However, in the emergency room, the primary role she takes on is crisis intervention.

A trip to the Emergency Department can often leave patients feeling like their whole world is turning upside down. When they come in, they sometimes face emotional and psychological challenges. These challenges are generally brought on by or in addition to their physical symptoms and injuries.

Social workers respond to everything from traumatic accidents to substance use issues. In the emergency room, social workers provide guidance to patients.

“When someone comes to the emergency room, that is typically the last option,” Adrienne says. “When they don’t know which way to turn, they turn to us to help them get on the right path. Hopefully, whatever our role is and however we intervene, we make a positive impact on that person’s life.”

Social Workers Guide Patients and Their Families Through Emotional Distress

When patients are admitted, Adrienne is called on standby. She waits until they receive the primary medical care they need. When they are stabilized, Adrienne meets with the patient. At that point, she learns more about the stressful event and see how she can help. In this comprehensive role, she helps both the patients and their loved ones. She guides patients and loved ones on the best ways to process and handle the emotional and high-stress situations they are facing.

With the onset of COVID-19, visitation policies strictly limited the amount of time loved ones could be in the hospital to protect their health and prevent the spread of the virus. During this time, the ability for a social worker to provide communication and support to family and friends became even more important. In addition, many patients experienced an increase in anxiety and depression throughout the pandemic.

The changing safety guidelines added an extra challenge to Adrienne’s role as COVID-19 continued to evolve. Early on in the pandemic, Adrienne recalls learning new ways to comfort her patients and their families. At the onset of the pandemic, safety precautions were put in place utilizing masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and social distancing.

Facing the Difficulties of Comforting Amid Social-Distancing

Last March, she recalls helping a man put on full PPE to visit his wife, who was dying from COVID-19. In times of sadness, Adrienne was no longer able to provide support with a hug or a touch on the shoulder but rather with her eyes. As a social worker, helping him through that time from a distance was extremely difficult and something that she will never forget.

Adrienne says that she has always been drawn to helping people and was inspired by those who have helped her in her own life. Taking care of her health in light of the pandemic, she looks forward to the spring weather and getting outside.

“It is important for us to recognize the work that we did throughout this challenging time,” Adrienne says. “I find spending time with family, doing something we enjoy, helps me stay balanced.”

Thank you, Adrienne!