Social Services
Social worker Sharon Nomburg greets a new mother and two of her quadruplets. Credit: Jessica Bernstein-Wax

They don’t diagnose illnesses, write prescriptions, or perform surgeries. But the social services staff members at our hospitals are, without a doubt, healers.

Our dedicated social workers and chaplains deliver expert, personalized support when families need it most.

"Sometimes the things we do seem really small,” says Rebecca Gates, who manages the department on our San Francisco campus. "But for a family, they might be huge."

Gates recalls a mother from Fresno bursting into tears when she offered to put the family up in a hotel following a difficult appointment. "She said, 'It’s such a lovely gift because we didn’t know how to pay for it,'" Gates recalls. "These kinds of gestures can transform the entire experience."

Shabren Harvey-Smith, director on the Oakland campus, says her team excels at assessing and meeting families’ needs beyond the obvious medical concerns. In some cases, this includes ensuring a family can make it to the hospital.

"Without the assistance of our department, some patients literally could not even get to their appointments because the family wouldn’t have the resources to pay for transportation," Harvey-Smith says.

Much of the budget for this support, which is not covered by insurance, comes from philanthropy. But generous gifts from the community don’t cover the needs of every family, with as many as two-thirds relying on government insurance.

"Philanthropy is absolutely essential to all that we do," Harvey-Smith says. "When it comes to meeting the needs of our families, I want us to always be able to say, 'Yes' and 'How?' instead of 'No' and 'I'm sorry.'"

Both Gates and Harvey-Smith take tremendous pride in leading passionate teams – more than 100 staff members dedicated to lightening the load for families in need.

"You can’t fix whatever’s going on, but you can offer information and support to help them get through it," Gates says.

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