Mighty Blog

Celebrating Social Work Month 2024

March is Social Work Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the incredible work social workers do every day for patients and families. The theme for this year’s Social Work Month is, “Empowering Social Workers.” Read the proclamation signed by Dr. Marc Gorelick, Children’s Minnesota’s president and CEO, to learn more about this year’s theme.    

To celebrate Social Work Month, we’re highlighting some of our own social workers at Children’s Minnesota: Sam Koktan, LGSW, overnight emergency department social worker, Daisy Dominguez, LICSW, emergency department social worker, and Rhea Sayotovich, LICSW, outpatient Children’s Heart Clinic and fetal echo social worker. 

Sam Koktan, LGSW, overnight emergency department social worker.
Sam Koktan, LGSW, overnight emergency department social worker.
Daisy Dominguez, LICSW, emergency department social worker
Daisy Dominguez, LICSW, emergency department social worker.
Rhea Sayotovich, LICSW, outpatient Children’s Heart Clinic and fetal echo social worker.
Rhea Sayotovich, LICSW, outpatient Children’s Heart Clinic and fetal echo social worker.

Get to know Sam, Daisy and Rhea! 

Tell us about your role.

I’m an after-hours/overnight weekend social worker at Children’s Minnesota – Minneapolis, and have worked here since April 2023. I’m typically stationed in the emergency department, but I respond to anywhere in the hospital. I respond to calls for patient families who may need extra support, experienced traumas, have mental health needs, deaths or any other situation.

I’m a social worker in the emergency department at Children’s Minnesota – St. Paul, and have worked here since September 2021. My role is to primarily conduct mental health evaluations on children and facilitate the transition to the recommended level of care. I also support children and families by providing referrals and resources available in the community.

I’m an outpatient Children’s Heart Clinic and fetal echo social worker and I’ve worked at Children’s Minnesota since June 2023. I support patients and families who come to all our Children’s Heart Clinic locations. Additionally, I support prenatal patients through our partnership with Health Partners maternal-fetal medicine clinics. I offer therapy and resource support to mothers whose babies are given a prenatal diagnosis of a congenital heart defect (CHD) and will likely be inpatient in our cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) after birth. So far, it has been an exciting experience working alongside the outpatient clinic teams and assisting pediatric and prenatal patients.

What inspired you to become a social worker?

I’ve always wanted to work with children in some fashion. I had a family member who was a foster parent and seeing the children in her home and the supportive role a social worker played in their lives I was hooked. I like day-to-day action and how no two days are the same. I’ve found a passion advocating for children and families during some of their most difficult days.

I studied psychology and sociology during my undergraduate program and learned I had a passion for mental health and lifespan development. At that point, I knew that I wanted to work with children and families in a clinical setting while also working on fighting social inequality and empowering individuals and families. Social work is a field that allows me many opportunities to impact individuals, families and communities.

My time serving as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow with the Minnesota Alliance with Youth is what initially inspired me. My AmeriCorps fellowship focused on working with at-risk students in the Minneapolis Public Schools program, Check & Connect, as a drop-out prevention caseworker for two years. I loved building relationships with my students and their families and helping them navigate the school system and community resources while also being present to watch them grow in their education and personal development. During that time, I worked closely with school social workers. I saw how they could take their support and advocacy to a higher systems level, enacting changes that would benefit even more students and families in the future. From there, I knew that social work was my path. I wanted to help make an impact, whether on a small level during one-on-ones with students or on a systems level in a larger educational system.

Why did you decide to work in pediatrics?

Spending many years working in child protection, I learned how much pain children or families have experienced continues through generations of unhealed trauma. This has affected children and families that I have worked with in the community. I wanted to bring my expertise to Children’s Minnesota to help advocate at another level of care. I am strengthening my clinical skills by working with children and pursued a career at Children’s Minnesota. By working in pediatrics, I can assist children and families with difficult situations, whether it be an unexpected illness, trauma, mental health needs or deathThere also has been an increase in mental health crises over the last four years; I’ve become an advocate for children to be entitled to quality care and help navigate families in a confusing mental health system that is full of barriers and loopholes.

I chose to work in pediatrics due to my love of working with children. In the past, I have volunteered and worked at schools and daycares where I have learned the importance of providing a safe and nourishing environment for children. I chose pediatrics due to the impact I could have on children with early intervention and prevention, and there’s no better place than Children’s Minnesota for this. Children’s Minnesota is where I saw myself positively impacting children and families and helping them identify the best care for their children.

Honestly, I never thought I would work in the medical system. My goal from the beginning was to be a school social worker. It was highly encouraged in my master’s program to use our internship to push outside our comfort zone and experience how the social work role can vary in different settings/fields. So, I challenged myself and spent my clinical internship at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital with their pediatric heart transplant, cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) and pediatric intensive care unit (PCIU) program. My time there was beyond anything I imagined a social work role could be; it was both intense and deeply inspirational. Working in collaboration with nurses and doctors to help families during the most challenging time of their lives was and remains a true privilege for me. After graduation, I tried doing school social work, but I missed working at the hospital. I returned to Masonic as their pediatric kidney transplant and dialysis social worker until I transitioned to Children’s Minnesota in summer 2023. 

What is your favorite part about your job?

One thing I love is that not every day is the same. Working in child protection for so long, I’m used to having days full of unknowns and unexpected things come up. It is also an honor and privilege to be part of a child or family’s story while they are here at Children’s Minnesota. It could be bringing a family together for safety planning around their child’s mental health crisis and witnessing the child find a voice for themselves for the first time. Building a relationship with a family through a trauma and later finding out that child is now discharged from the hospital and hearing about the progress they made is inspiring. Learning new skills from other social workers has also made me a better clinician in supporting our patients. I’ve also loved building relationships across the hospital and working collaboratively with a multi-disciplinary team to provide expert care. Finally, I enjoy the balance of my schedule and can have a career and stay at home with my children. 

My favorite part about working at Children’s Minnesota is being able to work collaboratively alongside many professionals and provide the best care for families. Working at Children’s Minnesota has been rewarding by seeing families receive support in many aspects by many professionals including doctors, nurses, child life, spiritual care, social work, etc.

One of my favorite parts would be the ongoing collaborative aspect. I love working closely with the medical team to provide crucial psychosocial context to complex cases while supporting patients and families as they reach their goals.

What would you like others to know about the work you do?

Many times, at night when I’m called into a room, responding to a code, conducting a mental health assessment, or supporting a family through a death of a child, it is more than likely not the place or situation the child or family imagined themselves being in. By working with the hospital staff, this helps prepare me as I contact the family to provide the full level of support they need. There are multiple hats social workers wear when they are responding to the hospital. We do our best responding to multiple calls during an overnight shift and build relationships to make sure each patient feels heard and their concerns/needs are met. By being creative with the limited number of resources available for children and families at odd hours, I can provide the best care to our patients.

I would like others to know that working in mental health, there are many children who come to Children’s Minnesota during a mental health crisis, and each child has their own unique experience and background. Every child and family are different and requires a plan tailored to their needs and family dynamics. As a social worker working in mental health, it is important to practice trauma-informed care and hold a family-centered perspective.

I can help patients beyond the hospital and clinic. I’ve been able to partner with outside primary clinics, schools and various community programs to assist patients and families as they strive to find new stability outside the hospital.

Work at Children’s Minnesota

We at Children’s Minnesota have been caring for kids for 100 years. That kind of devotion requires a powerhouse team, health care professionals with talent, experience and heart. If that sounds like you, we’d love to have you join us. Apply today: childrensmn.org/careers.

Alexandra Rothstein