The Journey is the Reward

Receiving or donating an organ is not a walk in the park. It is a lifelong commitment that cannot be reversed, and definitely not forgotten.

Given these implications, transplant patients and their families can expect to encounter periods of high stress – requiring the need for social workers like Kathy Daley to help make the journey a little less daunting.

Social Work Team

Daley, one of 5 transplant social workers at UC Health, works with patients and families during the pre-transplant phase of kidney and pancreas transplant. Together with her colleagues, the transplant social work team is able to cover all programs in the department – each focusing on a specific assignment dependent upon the circumstance of a particular patient.

In general, social workers in healthcare can assist patients and their families with psychosocial health needs as well as provide intervention to promote adaptation to illness and disability.

“I complete a psychosocial assessment which serves as the starting point in preparation for transplant,” says Daley. “Patients and families have the opportunity during that time to identify the strengths that will contribute to a successful transplant outcome.  Also throughout the assessment interview and transplant work-up, barriers to success are sometimes identified and addressed.”

But, while the role of a social worker may seem relatively straightforward, the added complexities of healthcare make the job no easy feat. “To state that there was a learning curve would be the understatement of the year.  This is why I appreciate having been in an academic setting – questions are expected and encouraged,” adds Daley, who had never worked in a hospital before starting at UC Health in 2003.

As an academic healthcare system, UC Health is able to combine clinical care with education and research to deliver the best possible patient outcomes.

“The transplant teams at UC Health do amazing work and change lives on a daily basis.  Each discipline brings a unique perspective and talent and it is inspiring to work with so many people toward a common goal,” Daley says.

Yet, providing a great patient experience on-top of such complex circumstances is a bit tricky. This is where Daley and her team come in. “In my opinion, the biggest responsibility of any social worker is to engage a person and earn the trust to allow for accurate identification of what is working and what is not. Engaging a patient and family in the process is the only way to clearly define the starting point,” she says.

And when engagement isn’t enough, the transplant social work team at UC Health go above and beyond to implement something arguably unheard of in healthcare – patient fun.

Christmas Party

This year, the social work team hosted their second annual holiday party to celebrate the common bond between all transplant patients and to come together outside of a clinical setting. From physicians, to surgeons to administrative staff, it certainly ended the year on a good note for everyone involved.

“All of us in healthcare are included in an intimate time in patients’ lives.  Whether it’s critical illness, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, or a trauma, we are strangers to our patients and families… until we aren’t,” says Daley, pointing out the reward in getting to serve such amazing people on a day-to-day basis. “When patients and families invite social workers into the emotional aspect of their medical situation, their vulnerability and the privilege to be included is not lost on us.”

Now We Join in Celebration

As we celebrate 50 years of providing excellence in transplantation, breakthrough treatments and compassionate coordination of care to the region, we invite you to join us in a 50-day countdown to the anniversary of the first surgery that launched Cincinnati’s most comprehensive transplant program.

Celebrate with us by sharing our stories of transplantation with your social media network using #UCHealthTransplant via FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

For more information about UC Health transplant services, please visit