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On the Front Lines

On the Front Lines

On a cool, spring day, Jodi Kornelsen (BSW/09) spoke with me via Zoom about her work at the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) in Winnipeg’s inner-city. She is an Adult Emergency Social Worker, and her role has her on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. A fight that has created a substantial shift in the work she is doing. 

As a social worker, Jodi is involved right from the moment a patient enters the emergency department. Yet, now they are entering alone. “The emergency room used to be a place of respite for patients and their families. Now the families are being turned away,” says Jodi. Patients are then treated with a biopsychosocial model. The model looks at the interplay between biology, psychology and socio-economic factors and is one of the many ways in which patients are treated in what Jodi calls a “whole team event.”  

Many patients present with a heightened sense of anxiety and many have little or no options for self-isolation if they test positive for COVID-19. Jodi helps them cope during their stay at HSC. “If our patient is living on the street, we try to find room for them at a women’s shelter, detox centre or at Mainstreet Project, where they have opened up beds for self-isolation.” Her work is rewarding and challenging at the same time. “My work varies from hour to hour, day to day”. 

Jodi’s work life has changed too, as she dons scrubs and personal protective equipment before meeting with each patient. It takes time and patience. “The housekeepers at the hospital are gems,” she says, as she notes that cleaning has become a lifesaving role in a workplace where hierarchy was often felt. Everyone is part of the team now. 

Jodi came to Booth UC (then Booth College) in 2004 as an after-degree student in the Bachelor of Social Work program. She had her sights set on working in geriatrics, but her practicum placements took her into the realm of family violence.  “Even though I was adamant that I wanted to work in geriatrics, my profs knew that the area of family violence would be a better fit.”  

After her graduation in 2009, she worked in the fields of mental health, family violence and did end up working in a personal care home for a while. Eventually, she found her way to hospital social work, first at the Grace Hospital, and now at HSC. “I am a strong women’s advocate, and with my background in family violence, the hospital is a great fit. I love it!”  

Jodi credits the emphasis on clinical counselling and practice in her Bachelor of Social Work program at Booth UC with her success and happiness on the job. Her role as a front-line worker in Winnipeg’s inner-city is one which has taken on new challenges during this pandemic and she is an inspiration to Booth UC’s community and our commitment to Education for a Better World. Thank you Jodi!