When Susan Leet decided to pursue a midlife career change, she knew she wanted to be a helper.
She comes from a long line of helpers — her grandfather was a minister. Her father was a dentist who traveled to 30-plus countries as a medical missionary at his own expense for 40 years, eventually retiring at age 85.
After taking a few classes at University of Louisville, Susan was satisfied she could go back to school full time and balance her family life. She enrolled in UofL’s Kent School of Social Work to pursue a master’s degree.
Susan has worked as a social worker for more than 15 years now — the last 10 at Norton Children’s Hospital.
Social workers assist people in many different places: local and state governments, schools, nonprofit organizations, child welfare agencies, hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. They support people of all ages who may be experiencing some of the hardest times of their lives and need extra help.
Helping patients and families with the details
Social workers have a role to play in health care. They support patients and families as they cope with the emotional, social and financial aspects of a diagnosis or health emergency. They also help people coordinate access to medications, medical equipment, transportation and other needs. Hospice services too.
“When a nurse or physician calls me, it can be for anything. Someone may need help with a way to get home; a new mom may be having a hard time. I’ll talk with her and learn that she shows signs of postpartum depression,” Susan said. “Someone may tell me, ‘I’m behind two months on my rent.’ I can work with them to find resources.”
Contact a social worker
If you or a loved one are receiving medical care at a Norton Healthcare facility and need the services of a social worker, alert a nurse or other health care provider.
Social workers also create safety plans to help protect adults and children who may be in abusive situations. They collaborate with the court system and governmental bodies to provide for the patient’s well-being. Social workers are on the front lines of issues such as the opioid epidemic.
Susan said that the situations she and her fellow social workers see can be very stressful and complicated. They work with people who may be experiencing some of the hardest times of their lives and the complex emotions that come with them. While the work can be challenging, Susan says there is always a reason to stay positive.
Being there for the ups and downs
“Some people will say to me, ‘I don’t know how you do it,” Susan said. “But it really is a privilege to help so many people. Sometimes you just have to smile even if the day was extra hard — you have to think, ‘It was a good social work day!’”
She combats stress with a fairly new hobby: cycling. Her son started cycling and inspired her to buy a bike. She often bikes the trails of Iroquois and Cherokee parks. Susan has challenged herself to ride 65 miles in this year’s Bike to Beat Cancer as a new rider.
Norton Healthcare employs 51 social workers, including 16 at Norton Children’s Hospital. Families can get help from a social worker almost any time, day or night. Susan said that if you’re in any hospital and need a friendly ear, ask your nurse or doctor if you can talk to a social worker.
“Social workers rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn; and we’re there for anyone who comes through our doors,” Susan said.