Partnering for health in Phnom Penh

Partnering for health in Phnom Penh

July 2014 - May 2017

Cambodia

Introducing a social work unit to a Phnom Penh hospital.

Partnering for health in Phnom Penh

July 2014 - May 2017

Cambodia

As Cambodia continues to work on rebuilding its health care system, this project aimed to introduce professional social workers into hospitals to support patient care and enhance health outcomes, particularly among people living in poverty. Prior to this pilot project, social workers had not been present in Cambodian hospitals (although they have a limited presence in the health sector, and many paraprofessionals work in various NGOs). Social work as a profession is also quite new; the first bachelor's degree program was only established in 2008.

The first phase involved laying the foundations for a social work unit at Calmette Hospital. Through collaboration with the hospital leadership, formal approval was gained for the social work unit to become a part of the facility, two social workers were hired and new systems and procedures were agreed upon.
The second phase saw the social work unit starting their work with lower-income surgical and medical patients. The pair of social workers began with an informal census to learn more about the patients. Another important first step was building trust and rapport with the doctors and other medical personnel. All referrals are made by the physician, so a good relationship between the new social workers and doctors is critical.

With the support of Rei Foundation, this project implemented social work procedures, and developed case studies to help illustrate the use and benefits of social workers in hospitals. The project also developed an Operations Manual with the essential tools to support initial assessment of patient needs, implement treatment plans and referrals, and follow up with monitoring of patient outcomes.
Slider Image A social worker at Calmette Hospital meeting with a patient and his family member.
A social worker at Calmette Hospital meeting with a patient and his family member.
Slider Image Supervisors for the programme (far left and far right) with two  social workers during their training.
Supervisors for the programme (far left and far right) with two social workers during their training.
It was also identified that local nurses and their patients would benefit from some aspects of social work training. Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP) Department of Social Work offers a social work direct practice skills course as the first stage of its continuing education Certificate Program in Social Work. The course defines the characteristics of social work practice, helping students build a foundation of skills enabling effective communication with clients and their family members in practice.
RUPP Department of Social Work, University of Washington School of Social Work and Rei Foundation also supported one nurse, who worked at Calmette Hospital in a ward that served patients with limited financial resources, and two nurses working in the psychiatric unit of the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital to enrol in this course. The course enabled the nurses to improve their interpersonal communication and interaction skills with patients.

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