Health Care Support Staff – Unsung Heroes

So much of our Health Care decisions and stress focuses around the primary care physicians and specialists. We often forget that the immediate care is provided by the facility support staff. Unsung heroes that provide a multitude of services and immeasurable caring for patients in all care settings.

This month, we recognize two of them, the Certified Nursing Assistant and the Social Worker. We honor and thank them for their caring and support.

Most patients, families and caregivers will not argue that doctors and nurses are the front line in medical care. Their expertise and knowledge can be the matter of life and death when it comes to not just acute care, but also long term care.

However, I recently had Facebook send me a memory from a few years ago, which reminded me of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) that I had the pleasure of knowing at Rhode Island Hospital. She was an amazing caregiver, filled with compassion and empathy and the ability to listen and reassure.

The reminder helped me realize that there are many unsung heroes. They are the support staff that provide everyday patient care, directly impacting patient well being. Support staff range from social workers, dieticians, transport, med techs and CNA’s. They are the backbone of every medical facility.

Today I want to focus on social workers and CNA’s, due to their direct impact to patient care and overall case management. These individuals work tirelessly to assist families and patients in their time of need. As a patient advocate, I take care to identify their roles and how vital they are to the entire health care experience.

The Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) works under the direction of the nursing staff. The CNA is often responsible for assisting the medical staff with patient care, including cleaning and changing dressings and documenting observations as well as maintaining cleanliness and sanitization of patient areas. Their role is vital to communicating a patient’s condition to the medical staff, because of the extensive daily contact they have with a patient.

In my experience, a caring CNA is able to reach a patient with their compassion and understanding, when the attending physicians and RN’s are often not able to. They also can bridge the non medical information gap, bringing things to a humanistic level and provide a life-line for the family and the patient. I have seen their positive impact and empathy give the patient a path to wellness that is often overlooked.

The other unsung hero, usually unseen by the general public, are medical and healthcare social workers. I often seek out the facility social workers to gather as much information as I can for my clients. But, many patients never see them at all since they are only called in as a referral from a doctor or nurse. If you request a social worker, one will gladly be provided for you and I encourage all to do so.

Social workers know how the health care system works and the resources available both on a general basis, but also at a particular facility. If needed, they provide patients and families the support to cope with chronic, acute, or terminal illnesses. Advising family members and care givers, they also take part in patient education and counseling. I have found that they can assist with decoding patient consent forms and legal documents, a big relief to patients and families.

CNA’s and Social Worker are vital health professionals that work with the senior medical staff to provide quality care to every patient. In working together as a team, we help families navigate the complex world of health care. In short, I cannot imagine a health care setting without the amazing social workers and CNA’s I have had the pleasure to work with.

Contact Jackie O’Doherty at 908-832-0417 or visit

About Jacqueline O'Doherty

Jacqueline O'Doherty of Health Care Connect, LLC is an experienced certified Patient Advocate who guides patients through our complex, confusing and changing healthcare system. As a Patient Advocate, Jackie supports and empowers patients and their families, making sure the patient is aware of all the options available to them by researching illness and disease, coordinating patient care and facilitating communication and continuity among the healthcare providers. She also assists in obtaining physicians and homecare…nurses, home health aides, physical therapy etc, as well as researching and facilitating short and long term care options. Jacqueline navigates the healthcare system with patients and their families, throughout the medical continuum, ensuring-patient centered care and protecting the patient’s healthcare rights. Jacqueline also provides peace of mind for long-distance caregivers by coordinating and overseeing senior care. Health Care Connect furnishes “feet on the ground,” resolving long distance and “sandwich generation” care dilemmas. Jacqueline teaches patient empowerment seminars enabling participants to utilize the healthcare system with greater confidence and success. Jacqueline spent 18 years in the medical device industry calling on various hospital departments and physicians across the medical continuum, allowing her to understand firsthand the difficulties of navigating the healthcare system. Jacqueline is a graduate of the Alfus Patient Advocacy Program at the University of Miami. She is also a graduate of Towson University with a degree in psychology. Jacqueline is a contributor to Hospital Impact and runs her private practice from Califon, NJ Jacqueline also serves on the board of directors for ICOPPA…International Coalition of Professional Patient Advocates. For further information please contact Health Care Connect, LLC Phone: 908-832-0417 Email: Website:
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