PFCC Star of the month: Matthew Park, Social Worker, PICU

Maryse Dagenais, April’s PFCC Star nominated Matthew Park, her colleague in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for this month’s award. “Matthew has worked in the PICU for several years. Right from the start, his presence made a difference for the families we care for,” says Maryse. “He works very well with our entire team and his work with families is respected and appreciated by all. Matthew's real strength is being able to support the family and help all members of the team become active participants in family support, which is not always an easy task in the fast-paced PICU.”

Before studying social work, Matthew worked with adults and teens in the community but once back at university for his social work degree, he decided to pursue a career in pediatrics. In his own words, he was “lucky enough” to get a stage at the Montreal Children’s Hospital which eventually led to a full-time position. In 2008, he joined the hospital’s PICU team, a group which strongly share his views. “My colleagues all have a similar vision in terms of wanting to integrate families but also partner with them with respect to their child’s care,” he says. Matthew works closely with colleagues from Psychology, Spiritual Support, Child Life, and nursing/medical teams to determine how they can best help each family.

Empowering families

Matthew says the idea of patient- and family-centered care has always been important to him. “It’s in me,” he says, “and I think it’s a natural part of being a social worker. We can advocate for families but it’s also a matter of empowering them and helping them make the best informed choices they can.”

Matthew provides counselling to families as well as helping them understand and navigate the services and benefits available to them. Often, families in the PICU must stay for lengthy periods. “I consider it a privilege to accompany a family in such a difficult situation, to offer them both emotional support and help them with everything in their lives that continues on outside the hospital doors,” he says. He also acknowledges that while a family’s journey in the PICU can be one of the most difficult times of their lives, there are many positive things that can happen as well.

Kimberly’s son Evan was a patient in the PICU for several months last year. She says it’s easy to feel lost when your child is hospitalized, but Matthew helped them feel more in control, and even watched out for them when they eventually transferred to the medical unit. “When we first arrived in the PICU there was so much to learn and so many things we were experiencing,” says Kimberly. "Matthew brought us a calm sense of relief.” Kimberly says Matthew would check in with them every day and was always there for her when she needed to talk. “Sometimes I just needed to talk something through and he was always very supportive and such a good listener. And whenever we had questions, he’d find the answers for us. He always gave us his full attention. For so many things, we wouldn’t have known where to turn without him.”

Getting everyone’s input

Matthew is involved in several committees on the PICU. “There’s been a shift to including more families on all our committees. As healthcare professionals, we don’t have the parents’ actual experience, so hearing from them and learning from them enriches the interactions we have,” he says. “There’s a difference between coming up with what you think is best for a family and actually working with the family, and getting their feedback. Parents entrust the hospital staff to care for their kids. They know their kids best, so we should rely on their input to make the best decision as a team.”