For the latest COVID-19 information, visit vcuhealth.org/covid-19 or Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for pediatrics. For vaccine details, visit vcuhealth.org/covidvaccine.


Search VCU Health

0 Results
View Results

VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital Social Workers

Image of  Tammy House, Jane Allen and Trakecha South

Tammy House, Jane Allen and Trakecha South are all social workers at VCU Health CMH.

Social workers at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) have an extensive background in many clinical areas. Each discipline has its own society and training based on regulations for those areas. Social workers are available in oncology, to all residents of The Hundley Center (long term care facility) and in home health and hospice to provide support to patients and families in coping with their health care concerns.

Professional social workers are there to help patients and their families with the social and emotional concerns related to their illnesses. Medical social workers help coordinate medical care for patients, serve as a patient advocate and provide information and support for patients and their families.

Oncology Social Work

Oncology social worker Tammy House, LMSW, CCM, is a licensed social worker and certified case manager, and has worked at VCU Health CMH for more than 40 years. Over her career, Tammy has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience from working with patients in various areas of health care such as oncology, long term care, dialysis, hospice and acute care. “This is a rewarding career; you can grow professionally and hopefully see where you can make a difference,” she said. She especially enjoys being part of the oncology team. “We have an extraordinary oncology team at CMH, and we are so fortunate to have quality oncology services available to patients in Southside Virginia and northern North Carolina, so patients don’t have to travel long distances to receive care.” A cancer diagnosis is an extreme emotional and financial burden for people.

One of her biggest challenges is finding financial resources for patients who are uninsured or underinsured. “Many oncology medications are unaffordable, so I spend time searching for resources through foundations, organizations, and manufacturers to obtain free oncology medications or assistance with copays. Helping to ease the financial concerns of our patients is important and enables the patient to focus on their treatment plan.”

Another challenge is finding transportation for the patients in need. “Our service area covers a wide range of communities where public transportation is not an option. Brunswick and Mecklenburg counties both have cancer associations that may help people in need of assistance (i.e. cost of medications or gas). Patients often rely on family and friends to provide transportation to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.” she said.

The pandemic has affected everyone on some level. Oncology patients are especially hit hard because their families have not been allowed to be with them at the vulnerable times of diagnosis and treatment. “It can be very scary to deal with alone, especially when the family is not able to accompany the patient during treatment,” Tammy explained. “It is especially difficult to not be able to hug a patient or family member who is struggling or grieving.” Social workers have had a difficult time as well. “Not being able to collaborate openly in person is taking a toll on everyone. Zoom meetings get the job done but we somewhat lose a sense of camaraderie,” she said.

Tammy belongs to the Association of Oncology Social Work, which helps her stay up to date with changes and resources available in the oncology social work arena. She lives in La Crosse with her husband.

The oncology Social Work Director can be reached at (434) 584-4045.

Long Term Care Social Work

Jane Allen, BSW, has been employed at The Hundley Center for 20 years. She started out her career as a social worker in North Carolina for kids with behavioral health concerns. When a position became available at The Hundley Center, she applied to be closer to her home in South Hill. She was born at CMH and has lived in South Hill all her life. She really feels like she has found her niche. “My residents and coworkers are like extended family,” Jane said. “It’s a very rewarding field; I love to be an advocate and I know my residents well.”

Challenges are usually centered around insurance coverage. “When it is time for a resident to go home, we are not always able to connect them with the services we want to because the agencies don’t accept their insurance or they are not covered, Jane explained. “Residents may need more therapy, but insurance companies have limits on how long they can stay. It is a constant battle.”

The pandemic has had a major effect on residents because they were not allowed to have visitors. “We got creative and during warmer months we brought the residents outside for a family drive-thru parade, Jane said. “We’ve used FaceTime, Zoom and allowed window visits when possible.”

Jane is Resident Assessment Coordinator Certified (RAC-CT) through the American Association of Nurse Assessment Coordination (AANAC) and is in the Administrator in Training (AIT) program through the Board of Nursing Home Administrators to become a Nursing Home Administrator.

When she’s not working at The Hundley Center, Jane is the event and catering manager for The Dogwood at 313 Franklin. She is married and has three grown children. Two are in the Richmond area and one is in Syracuse, New York, earning a Master’s in Occupational Therapy.

Long-term care social workers can be reached at (434) 584-4043 or (434) 584-4044.

Home Health and Hospice Social Work

Trakecha South, MSW, lives in Nelson, Virginia, and has worked at VCU Health CMH for six years in Home Health and Hospice. She has 16 years of experience as a hospice social worker and worked for Hospice of Virginia in Farmville and a Community Home Care & Hospice in Henderson, North Carolina, before coming here. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Longwood University and master’s from the University of New England. “I call it heart work,” she said. “There is a lot of loss involved and you have to be able to process and deal with that on an ongoing basis. Either you can do it and you’re ok with it or you can’t.” She supervises interns from local colleges and universities, and they find out very quickly if this is a field they want to go into or not.

She really enjoys working with the geriatric population. Mecklenburg County has some of the poorest health outcomes in the state of Virginia. The area has a high incidence of cancers and chronic lung conditions. Trakecha has seen the geriatric population she serves get younger and go from 80s-90s to 60s-70s in her career. “I like to make sure people have the proper health care and resources in order to safely manage their care in the home,” she said. “I find out a lot of social history and financial information that can be useful in applying for different resources, so I really enjoy that aspect of it.”

“One of our biggest challenges is being in a rural health environment,” Trakecha said. “Resources are limited. With hospice we are able tap into grants from other organizations as well as the Now Wish program through CMH to help with end-of-life wishes and needs to ensure patients have a dignified passing. For home health, insurance companies don’t cover a lot,” she explained. One of the things she asks is if the patient ever served in the military. “Veterans Affairs is an under-utilized resource. Veterans and families often think that if they applied in the past, they are ineligible. I like to reassess the situation, and if applicable assist them in reapplying”, she advised.

The pandemic has made things harder and busier for patients and social workers. Not only are social workers dealing with the illness and regular challenges that terminal patients face but now they are seeing a lot more mental health issues in both patients and their caregivers. “They are stuck at home and more people were living in fear of this pandemic,” Trakecha noticed. “We’re also thinking about our own safety. We’re going in and out of people’s homes, which is an uncontrolled environment.” The electronic medical record they use has a calendar feature that tracks where
social workers go to allow for contact tracing when COVID-positive cases arise.

Before the pandemic, CMH Home Health and Hospice social workers would gather monthly to review resources. They attended training in Richmond at a Palliative Care Symposium and the Good Grief conference held annually by VCU Health. Trakecha is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and National Hospital and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO). She is passionate about conducting research and is currently earning her PhD to one day be able to teach at the collegiate level.

Home health and hospice social workers are available at (434) 447-0831.

Social Work at VCU Health CMH

Overall, the medical social work field is challenging but rewarding. There are a variety of subcategories to fit any interest. However, it takes a special person to be able to deal with the difficult, life-altering changes patients and their families go through. VCU Health CMH is fortunate to have such compassionate, qualified and professional social workers in their rural setting.