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Meet Rebecca: hospital social worker

 

Rebecca Summerill is a social worker at Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. Her role is one of many funded by Redkite in children’s and adolescent & young adult wards across the country. She sat down with us to talk about what it's like being a hospital social worker. 

If a family doesn’t know what a social worker is, how do you explain what you do?

I always find this an interesting question because for each family, it’s very very different! Really, in essence, we’re problem solvers. 

 

We’ll help you with linking in with all of the supports you need. Such as Centrelink for carer’s allowance, schooling once you’re ready to head back to school, or tutoring or education supports in between treatment. Anything that a child or their family you might need help with in their life - socially or mentally - we’re helping with all of those areas.

 

Rebecca

What do you like most about being a social worker in the children’s cancer space? 

The long term relationships that you build with people. In this space, you see people for 2 or 3 years and you develop a real relationship with them. You walk alongside them through all of the joys they have their life, and all of the difficulties.

 

It’s really nice to see people start off feeling really uncertain and uneasy and a bit worried, they’ve just been diagnosed with cancer… and then you walk in there and you’re the one person who says, you know what, this is going to be really tough, but we’re going to get through it together. 

Working with families who are receiving palliative care or are bereaved is a sad but unavoidable part of what you do. Can you tell us a bit about that?

It is a sad part of the role. And it obviously will always be sad and will always be disheartening, but you know these families so well that you feel that sense of loss alongside them.

 

So it’s actually a really profound and meaningful part of the role. It’s beautiful to be present with families who allow you to come in to that really sacred space, and support them through the most memorable moments of their life, and make it special. 

 

Lady Cilento Children's Hospital

Being a social worker sounds really rewarding but it also sounds like it can be tough. How do you look after yourself on those tougher days? 

I think it comes back to that meaning that you draw from the work. The moments in life are so special, and I think that [this] just constantly reminds you. 

 

There’s this new movement in positive psychology around everyone wanting to be positive all the time (but) happiness is this elusive thing that we’re all searching for; and you’re actually never going to get it. Happiness is actually the day to day moments with your family, and I think this role is just such a huge reminder of that. It’s just really grounding. 

 

So physically, what do I do? I spend time with my children and focus on them. I talk really deeply with my colleagues around the meaning and the purpose of our work. It’s really about the meaning that you get from it. It’s profound and it’s peaceful work. 

 

To find out more about Redkite’s funding of social workers in hospital or to access support, get in touch at 1800 REDKITE (1800 733 548) or support@redkite.org.au