Where It Really Works | Randall Children's Hospital

Rachel Seibert BSW '12 at Randall Children's Hospital
Rachel Seibert pictured working at Randall Children's Hospital

Rachel Seibert BSW ’12 is a pediatric medical social worker — and an important part of a team caring for young patients and their families.

Rachel Seibert BSW ’12 meets people in some of their most trying moments.

Seibert is the pediatric social worker at Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland.

She provides in-depth assessments if a child or teen comes in threatening to hurt himself or someone else.

She’s there with a family when a doctor has to deliver the worst news, “Say, there’s been a terrible accident and there’s a child we anticipate is going to die,” she said.

She may be called to work with a child who nurses suspect is being bullied in school.

"We try to let people maintain as much personal choice as they can."

Or to help a family who has nowhere to stay and nothing to eat.

And, of course, she responds if there is a suspicion of child abuse or exploitation — though if she determines that is likely, she calls in another, specially designated team.

(Despite popular myth, child welfare is only a very small part of the scope of social work field, and a job not limited to professional social workers. At Randall Children’s Hospital, though, specially trained pediatricians and social workers are assigned to such cases.)

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Part of what Seibert loves is the interprofessional collaboration in her job. Every provider at the children’s hospital carries a hip phone, and they work closely across disciplines to provide whole-patient care.

“I can call a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, occupational therapist,” she said. “Each of us brings our own professional values, and of course personal ethics and values.

“Social workers, we always try to do the least restrictive thing for the patient. We try to let people maintain as much personal choice as they can. We are there to make sure there is no barrier to them getting the help they need.”

In turn, the same professionals turn to Seibert for her insights — and her support.

“It’s difficult work, intense. And it’s also confidential work. So it’s beneficial to be able to talk to each other,” she said. “The intensity of our work fosters closeness. We watch people die together. We see the most intense of the intense together.”

"I feel privileged to be there at monumental, pivotal moments in people's lives."

Seibert was called to medical social work — and to Randall Children’s Hospital — by personal experience. At 18, she was in an accident that nearly claimed her life. She was treated at Randall for more than two years by some of the same people who are, today, her colleagues.

“It’s really like my family there,” she said.

After the injury, she realized she wanted to spend her own career helping others in such crisis moments. She discovered medical social work while exploring options at Portland Community College and chose Pacific University’s bachelor of social work program after meeting Professor Jessica Ritter.

“We had a hospice social worker come to class and talk about what it means to sit with someone when they die. The class was, ‘Ugh,’ and I was, like, ‘That’s amazing! What a privilege to be with someone!’”

She went on to earn a master of social work, specializing in medical social work, from the University of Utah (Pacific has since opened its own MSW program at its Eugene Campus), and she just completed her qualifications and exam to become a licensed clinical social worker.

“I always say, if I could go back and prevent (the accident), I would, to save my family that pain. But I’m glad I can’t.

“It changed who I was. I can sit next to someone in crisis and be empathetic. I can understand their pain — maybe not exactly — and be able to hold it with them.

“I feel privileged to be there at monumental, pivotal moments in people’s lives.”

This story first appeared in the Spring 2016, Special Healthcare issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit pacificu.edu/magazine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016