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Case managers and social workers key to stroke patient care

By The Health News Team | February 17, 2023
SGH social workers
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Sharp Grossmont Hospital social workers.

SGH case management team
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Hospital stays, especially those unplanned, can cause worry and unease. While receiving care and recovering, patients often receive visits from different care providers throughout their stay. However, it may surprise you to learn staff members of a different sort can help relieve some of your concerns: medical social work and case management team members.

Garrett Gower, medical social worker at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, works directly with patients after experiencing a stroke. He ensures their needs are met before being discharged from the hospital.

“I like to tell patients that I'm here to provide support and connections to resources to ensure that they have a safe transition plan wherever they’re headed next,” Gower shares.

The importance of a safe transition plan

With safe transition planning, social workers provide patients necessary resources for discharge from the hospital. Sharp Grossmont social workers strive to ensure that unique challenges and needs — such as homelessness, substance use, mental health challenges, grief or challenging family dynamics — are addressed before patients leave the hospital.

“If you’re at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, you’ll see our social work team visit patients affected by a stroke to talk to them and conduct a psychosocial assessment,” Gower says. “This gives us an opportunity to hear from the patient and get an overview of their life and circumstances so that we can try to cover all the gaps that there may be when it’s time to leave the hospital.”

While working on attaining his psychology degree, Gower’s interests were focused on research. That is, until he discovered a desire to explore medical social work.

“I was working in autism research, and I had the opportunity to collaborate with an incredible clinical social worker that introduced me to all you can do with social work,” he says. “That sparked my interest. I've always had a passion for health care, and when I learned I could be a part of advocating for the vulnerable populations in the hospital setting, I wanted to pursue that.”

Specialized care on any given day

According to Gower, he gets to experience something new every day. “I really do believe a vibrant city like San Diego, with people from around the world, is an incredible place to learn from others and learn how to advocate for different populations,” he says.

Gower shares that he loves that his team cares so deeply and always seeks to address the gaps in patients’ needs. Together, they’re able to manage complex cases and provide support and care to the patient, he says.

“When a patient comes in, especially after experiencing a stroke, it's a stressful time,” Gower says. “It can be scary for patients and their families. Ultimately, I think a lot of the patients we see are just trying to get some sense of relief during a chaotic time. So that's something I think our team does well — we collaborate well and provide care and compassion to our patients.”

Case management and social work teams: partners in care

Like Gower, Lauree Whitcomb deeply understands the critical role case management and social work teams play in caring for stroke patients. Whitcomb, case manager at Sharp Grossmont, began her career as a nurse over 30 years ago. Over half of her time was dedicated to caring for patients in the surgical trauma intensive care unit.

As Whitcomb explored what the next step in her professional career might be, she found herself coming back to pursuing case management. After finishing her education and training, Whitcomb began her career in case management. Since 2019 she has played an integral role in advocating for patients after experiencing a stroke.

A typical day for Whitcomb and her colleagues includes a daily morning huddle, where team members receive their assignments and arrange the day’s workload. Assisting patients in obtaining health insurance, discharging patients to a skilled nursing facility, managing transportation upon discharge, and setting up acute rehabilitation are just a few of the tasks Whitcomb and her team may expect on any given day.

“We’re patient advocates,” she says. “We work so hard to ensure our stroke patients have what they need. In my previous nursing role, I was a caretaker — a doer. And now as a case manager, I have that same opportunity but in a different way.”

Whitcomb’s philosophy of care is simple: She believes when people need help, it shouldn't be difficult for them to receive it.

“When someone suffers a stroke, they're frightened, as are their family members,” she says. “My goal is to lower the stress they’re experiencing.”

Learn about Sharp Grossmont Hospital’s designation as a Comprehensive Stroke Center — the highest designation given by The Joint Commission in association with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.


Garrett Gower


Garrett Gower is a medical social worker at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.


Lauree Whitcomb


Lauree Whitcomb is a case manager at Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

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