March 15, 2021
What it's Like to be an EveryStep Social Worker: Laura Courtney-Brubaker
When Laura Courtney-Brubaker was studying for her bachelor's degree in social work, her first internship in the field was shadowing a hospice social worker.
"She wore so many hats in that role," Laura recalls. "It was an eye-opening experience for me. I always thought that if I go back to school and get my master’s and I could get into hospice social work, that would be fantastic."
Laura did eventually get her master's degree in social work, and after working nearly a decade in residential homes, she's now been the hospice social worker at EveryStep's Kavanagh House on 56th Street hospice home for nearly two years.
"As social workers, we are a support and advocate for folks, to meet them where they are and find what they need or want, help them with finding a goal," Laura said. "We sit and listen, we will cry with you, laugh with you. We will be that strong calm presence if you just need to get things out. We're here to help you with your well-being."
And that's exactly what Laura does at Kavanagh House, and now during construction at the hospice home, for patients and families at EveryStep’s Bright Kavanagh Center.
"I meet with patients and families, give tours of the facility, help with any questions on the plan of care and medications, I coordinate with nurses, connect families to resources in the community," she said. "During the pandemic, I've helped families and patients understand our visitor policies and screenings."
Laura has also spent time on referral visits, helping to answer questions of families and patients who may soon be moving to Kavanagh House.
"They'll see me in the meetings with them and then they have a familiar face when they get here," she said. "They remember you and know they can ask you for help."
While these tasks may seem to be far reaching, they each have a common goal: to provide patients and their families with support during their time at Kavanagh House.
"We work with individuals that are at all different points in their acceptance and understanding and readiness for that next step," Laura said. "To be there to listen to them and their stories, the joy they've experienced in life, the heartache they've experienced. I think it's been wonderful to be part of that."
Laura recalls spending a recent afternoon with a woman whose mother was a patient at Kavanagh House. Laura had popped her head into the room to offer to grab the daughter coffee and the gesture turned into a longer conversation.
"She told me some personal and fun stories and memories of her mother and growing up with her," Laura said. "Her mother was no longer able to share those stories herself. The daughter shared how her mother impacted and influenced the rest of the family."
Simply spending time with the daughter as she prepared to say goodbye to her mother was so appreciated.
"She said she was at a tough spot and for me to just sit and talk with you, it was a really helpful time for her to reflect back on those positive times," Laura said.
More recently, Laura says she's been grateful to spend time with families who have been impacted by the pandemic.
"Sometimes people haven't seen family since this started," she said. "To see them be able to come in and see them, it's meant so much. They hadn't been able to be there and hold their hand. We can provide them with support."
That support has also come in the form of a recordable teddy bear. With support from the EveryStep Foundation, patients can gift a recordable teddy bear to their loved ones. The bears can hold a message or a heartbeat and provide a lasting memory for loved ones. On many occasions, Laura has helped families make the recordings.
"That is such an amazing thing that we offer," she said. "I have helped some families record heartbeats, record short messages, that's been a really neat thing to be a part of."
While Laura enjoys working with patients and providing a calm, supportive presence in anyway she can, she also notes that she feel supported by her EveryStep team.
"The team and support that EveryStep offers to their employees, the knowledge and some of the staff members that have been here for years, you learn so much from them, not just as a social worker, but being a part of EveryStep," she said.
Being a social worker for hospice might not be the right fit for everyone, but for Laura, its a wonderful opportunity to offer support and options for people in the community.
"I'm exactly where I hoped I would be," she said.
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