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Hospital social workers helping families deal with the aftermath of deadly shooting

Published: Friday, Jan. 6 2012 6:19 p.m. MST

Bridgette Baker is the social work manager at McKay-Dee Hospital Center in Ogden. Photographed in the chapel at the hospital on Friday, Jan. 6, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

OGDEN — The shooting of six police officers here Wednesday night was traumatic, not only for the officers involved, but also for their families.

From the moment the victims arrived at the hospital, medical personnel and social workers surrounded them and the families.

There are 18 social workers at McKay-Dee Hospital Center covering every department and every situation that families face. This week they were very much in demand.

"I think when families come in, they're not sure what to expect, and I think the fear of the unknown is huge," hospital social worker Bridgette Baker said.

Emergency vehicles raced to the hospital Wednesday evening carrying critically injured police officers. Six members of the Weber-Morgan Metro Narcotics Strike Force were attempting to serve a warrant about 8:40 p.m. at 3268 Jackson Ave. when a gun battle erupted. Six officers and the alleged gunman were shot. One officer died from his injuries a few hours later.

Doctors and nurses sprang into action, delivering medical care. Baker and her team of social workers took over the needs of the officers’ families.

“Especially in a traumatic situation, sometimes the social workers are the ones trying to find the families to let them know that their loved ones are here," Baker said. "And then they're the ones that are greeting them at the door in the emergency department a lot of times to say 'come with me, everything's going to be OK.'"

A medical environment can be confusing, even intimidating, she says. Her staff comforts, listens and guides families through life-changing trauma.

She says as a social worker they listen to what the physicians have said and "then the next step is then to talk to the family about what did you hear, what did you understand, how did you process that?"

They don't counsel in faith terms, but they do have a list of ready chaplains to contact.

"If they do need spiritual support, we have volunteer chaplains that will come in, we can call their own clergy," she said. "We have a very close relationship with the different faiths in our community."

These families often include children, and the social workers coordinate their needs with life-skills specialists at the hospital who then guide them through the questions and confusion.

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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