Northwest Kidney Centers social workers, champions of equitable person-centered care

Social worker Tim Nguyen at our Kirkland Clinic.

Every day at Northwest Kidney Centers we work to increase opportunities for people to live the healthiest life possible, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money they make. The team of social workers at Northwest Kidney Centers is integral to this effort and enhances the high-quality, person-centered care we are committed to providing.

As key members of our interdisciplinary care teams that also include physicians, nurses, and dietitians, our dedicated social workers support patients’ mental wellbeing and quality of life. They meet regularly with patients and may provide short-term interventions and referrals to community organizations to support patients’ needs.

Chronic illness can overshadow a patient’s identity, causing depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. The social work code of ethics includes core values of social justice and dignity and worth of every person.

“The individuals we care for are so much more than people on dialysis,” said Sauntia Griffin, social work manager. “They are dynamic and complex, they have hopes and dreams, families, careers, and so much more. It is important to recognize all of the unique aspects of the whole person, and to acknowledge the cultural wealth that each individual brings through connection and community.”

Using trauma informed care as a guide, social workers partner with patients and families to address issues that arise, many of which are linked to socio-economic status and race. Support can include advocacy on patient’s behalf for food or housing assistance; ensuring patients have reliable transportation to and from treatment; helping someone new to the country or someone who speaks a different language other than English connect to local communities and cultural organizations; removing communications barriers through the use of medical interpreters to ensure patients receive information critical to their care; or helping patients apply for financial and medical benefits.

Northwest Kidney Centers was one of the first healthcare organizations in the country to be affected by COVID-19. During the pandemic, the challenges faced by our patients were amplified, especially our patients of color. Our social work team showed up every day to help patients who were the hardest hit by COVID. They worked tirelessly to ensure patients could access the life-sustaining treatment they needed safely and equitably.

Their care of the whole person, and their championing of social and racial justice issues, makes them true healthcare heroes.