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Social Work Month Puts Focus on How Profession Helps Patients and Families Overcome Hurdles

maria talking with a patient

Maria in action with a patient and his mother.


Shriners Children’s Southern California is helping celebrate this year’s Social Work Month in March with the theme Social Work Breaks Barriers, which highlights how social workers have enriched our society by empowering people and communities to overcome hurdles that prevent them from living life to the fullest.

Maria, a social worker at Shriners Children’s Southern California, is spotted every day, darting between patient rooms in the clinic corridors. She and social workers like her across the Shriners Children’s network are integral members of each patient’s care team. While other members of our patient care team focus on a patient’s surgery and rehabilitation needs, Maria helps families overcome all the other barriers to physical and emotional healing. Social workers work alongside our team of doctors, nurses, therapists and our child life specialists to help patients and families overcome any barriers standing in their way.

People become social workers because they have a strong desire to help others and make society a better place. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of social workers is projected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. In addition to hospitals and medical facilities, social workers can be found in schools, mental health practices, veteran centers, child welfare agencies, the criminal justice system, corporations and government.

Maria was drawn to social work because she benefited from social work as a child. “My parents are primarily Spanish-speaking. When I was young, my parents needed help with translating during their county and housing appointments,” said Maria. “They would bring me to those appointments so I could translate and complete any paperwork for them. I appreciated the assistance my parents and my family received from good caseworkers. I told myself that one day I would help people.”

“Developing relationships with families over the years and watching kids grow is an especially gratifying part of the job,” said Maria. “I have the privilege to be a part of many people’s lives and be of service on a daily basis.”

A Shriners Children’s patient Maria holds dear to her heart is a 17-year-old girl who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a very young age in Guatemala. With Shrine Assist, she and her family were able to come to the medical center in Pasadena for care. Maria was with the family every step of the way: navigating the county system, the online process and the tedious interview scheduling (then canceling and rescheduling), all to ensure that the patient would qualify for services needed.

With Maria’s persistence and hard work, she was able to help break down a barrier for the patient. “Once she was in the system, she was able to apply for CCS and other services, including a referral for a neurologist by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Nguyen," said Maria. “It is my job to serve without judgement and to the best of my ability. It brings me much pleasure to assist a person make positive changes in their lives.”

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