201703-01-05 - Columbia VA Health Care System
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Columbia VA Health Care System



March 4, 2017

Date: March 4, 2017
Release Number: 201703-01-05

Social Work chief at Dorn has witnessed expansion, growth in field, care to Veterans

by Jennifer Scales / Dorn VAMC Public Affairs

Leading by example and treating others in the manner you would want to be treated are just two fundamentals followed by Sherree Colvin, chief, Social Work Service at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center.

Between Dorn and seven Community-Based Outpatient Clinics, she oversees the performances of 145 social workers, who work in a broad spectrum of care for Veterans.

“The social workers are integrated into such areas as acute care, substance abuse, primary care, homelessness, and emergency, just to name a few,” Colvin said.

With the realignment of the homeless program under the social work umbrella, other career occupations have also been placed under her direction. Vocational rehabilitation specialists and outreach workers in the program can be found aggressively out in the streets and shelters looking for homeless Veterans, with the intent of getting them into the Veterans Administration for some sort of relief and care.

“Housing specialists may help the Veterans with the grant and per diem housing,” Colvin said. “Case managers and employment specialists also stand ready to provide assistance.”

Another high priority for the social workers exists in the inpatient medical units. “A lot of the patients there are aging and are no longer able to live independently, so they may require nursing home care,” Colvin added.

Even as patients arrive in the Dorn VAMC Emergency Room, social workers are standing by ready to screen patients in crisis. “If a patient is going to be admitted, an assessment is done within 24 to 48 hours for their care. We assist in coordinating home health, equipment or any other service that they may need upon their discharge,” Colvin said.

The job as the chief of social work has its share of issues. “Many challenges keep me up at night,” Colvin said. “Not every case is easy.”

Colvin admits to getting her social work start here in the Dorn VAMC as a GS-7 in the Primary Care Clinic, and from that point fell in love with the Veterans Administration. “I loved the environment and there were so many different opportunities to branch into. The territory of social work was as yet undiscovered. I got a chance to rotate through the arenas of acute care, substance abuse and mental health. The fast paced environment was exciting, and I liked being busy. They needed me there and it was fulfilling,” Colvin said.

Geriatric patients are among her favorite clients to work with, as she listens to them fondly tell their war stories.

When Colvin took over in 2007, there were only about 40 social workers. With a staff that has more than tripled in size which she now supervises, she proudly says their big accomplishment has been for them to become “credentialed and privileged” in their career field. Just because a person is ‘credentialed’ does not mean he/she has the ability to actually treat you for everything you might need or be able to admit you into the hospital. That comes under the heading of privileges, which in simple terms means granting the social worker the ‘privilege’ of performing a service, such as admissions, to begin with.

Another aspect Colvin says she enjoys about her job is that of process improvement. “I have the capability to make changes so that we can help Veterans and make sure we give them the services they need. As their advocate, our responsibility is to educate the Veterans about their benefits and services they may qualify for to help increase their quality of life.”

Colvin joins the ranks of Dorn VAMC employees who are passionate about their work. As service chief, she endeavors to ensure the employees are up to date in their skills. There is a lot of one-on-one training with staff by teaching and educating them on new marks in the social work field and Veteran services.

LaVetta Jones, administrative officer in Social Work Service, said of Colvin, “she is even-keeled and listens to our input. I value being an employee with her.”

Colvin always wanted to be in a profession to help others, initially thinking it would lead her to that of being a school counselor. But attending Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Ga., for a degree in sociology and the University of South Carolina, where she got her masters in social work, led her to where she is today.

In her rarely found spare time, Colvin can be seen enjoying a spin class or rotating back and forth between cheerleading competitions and football for her 11-year-old daughter, Sydney and 16-year-old son, Kade.

“Our leadership and staff here at Dorn care and work extremely hard for the benefit of all the Veterans. Everyone is here for the right reason…to take care of the Veteran,” Colvin concludes.

(MEDIA NOTE: Photos are available upon request.)