Caring More Award Spotlight: Kiwi Popyk
This Sedalia, MO Social Worker Feels “Blessed to serve”
At Crossroads Hospice, we know social workers have superpowers. They are fantastically flexible, immediately intuitive, prodigious problem solvers and terrifically tenacious, never letting go until they’ve found a solution.
And yet, social workers are a humble lot, even when they are the best at what they do: helping patients and families make connections, understand their care and find solutions.
Michel ‘Kiwi’ Popyk, a social worker at Sedalia’s Bothwell Regional Health Center, is one of these humble superheroes. She’s also the Crossroad Hospice 2016 Caring More Award winner from the Kansas City, MO region. “Grateful” and “blessed” are two words that pepper Popyk’s description of her life and her career. Working with families and individuals in crisis, at the end of life or facing life-limiting diseases may be a heavy load for some, but Popyk, a self-described adrenaline junkie, is merely thankful to be able to serve.
The archetype modern superhero, Superman, had a strong sense of purpose, morality and compassion. Superman was raised to believe that his abilities are gifts not to be abused. In many ways, he is the perfect hero, as he embodies all the best traits that people would believe to see in themselves. And so does Popyk.
Super Social Worker
At her job at Bothwell Regional Health Center, Popyk works with patients of all ages and their families. Some stories have happy endings and some don’t. One patient, who lost a limb, was able to recover with the rehab and counseling Popyk arranged. She’s also helped families with loved ones who needed ventilators to breathe, and thus the family faced some difficult decisions. In that case, it was Popyk’s job to help them through the process.
And sometimes a patient just wants a steak dinner. Popyk broke out her own grill to make that wish come true for a nursing home resident.
“Kiwi is often named in patient satisfaction surveys and by patients and families who are thankful for their treatment here,” says the director of patient services at Bothwell. “She has a way about her that brings out the best in others, which makes her an excellent social worker, educator and advocate for the patients she cares for.”
Standing for Her Patients
Working in a hospital where patients may stay for hours or a few days means the services and support Popyk arranges need to happen rapidly. She must assess their needs quickly and provide exactly what they need when they need it.
“There are definitely times when we step up as advocates for the patient and family when in the clinical team setting with physicians and other staff,” says Popyk.
“And, sometimes we advocate for the physician in supporting and explaining a medical decision, such as recommending a patient go to a nursing home instead of back to their own house. It’s a complicated dual role to bridge between the patient and the clinical team,” Popyk explains.
“The bottom line is that we try to help patients articulate their goals, taking into consideration the medical reality, and then work with them to meet those goals with whatever support is needed.”
“We look for ways to give back”
It’s a bit difficult to imagine how Popyk manages her full-time social work job with her community volunteer work.
“We’ve tried to raise our child as part of a giving family,” says Popyk. “We look for ways to give back to the community. No matter our difficulties, we know we have many more blessings and that drives us. We want to share those blessings.”
Popyk’s son has muscular dystrophy, and the whole family volunteers for the Muscular Dystrophy Association where her 12-year-old is an ambassador.
She’s also a deacon of her church, and is active in the youth programming there.
The Caring More Award includes a donation from Crossroads Hospice in honor of the award winner to a charity the winner chooses. Popyk chose the Bothwell Regional Health Center Foundation, which supports health education, medical technology and locally provided healthcare for residents of the Sedalia area, which is 90 minutes from Kansas City, MO.
Read about Katie Carter, winner of the 2016 Caring More Award for dedicated social workers from Crossroads Hospice in Memphis, TN.
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