Thrive by IU Health

March 19, 2024

From small town to big city, social worker knows importance of community

From small town to big city, social worker knows importance of community

When Tricia Behringer moved from a community of about 3,000 people to a city of more 800,000, she turned to her small-town roots to navigate her career in social work.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

Growing up in Corydon, Ind. Tricia Behringer said she learned something early on: “Everyone takes care of one another and makes sure no one is alone.”

That lesson serves her well in her role as Social Worker for IU Health’s Community Care Network. The initiative launched in 2020 to partner Indiana congregations with patients experiencing social isolation and loneliness. The idea was to train congregational members to offer companionship to patients discharged and at home.

Since its beginnings, the program has partnered with more than 30 diverse congregations and touched the lives of more than 500 patients. Sometimes, those contacts are a phone call away from connecting someone living alone from feeling alone.

Behringer started her career in social work at IU Health in the late 90s. She worked as a renal social worker and spent a large part of her career with the National Kidney Foundation of Indiana developing and managing programs for patients with kidney disease.

“As with all social workers, I have seen far too often the negative impact loneliness can have on someone and just how far a little bit of support can go,” said Behringer.

Early in her career she said she had a patient in his 90s who had lost several loved ones due to illness and tragedy. “He spent three days a week in a dialysis chair surrounded by techs and patients, and countless days in the hospital in his final year. He would light up when I visited with him and would always say how grateful he was every time I stopped to talk with him,” said Behringer.

After he passed, she attended his calling and said she quickly learned that she was the only person to visit. “I was overwhelmed by emotion. I was angry because he deserved so much more. He had a life of memories but no one to share them with, lessons to pass on, and so much love left to give. He was a beautiful soul that never asked for anything and never complained. All he really wanted was just a few minutes of someone’s time to feel as if he mattered and yet, so few took that opportunity.”

The experience affirmed Behringer’s career path in social work.

“I was called to do this work, to bring community and support to others where they need it most, and to make sure our patients, especially those that have no one, know that they do in fact matter to at least one person,” said Behringer.

March is Social Work Month, a time to recognize those practitioners serving as part of a patient’s care team.

For Behringer, joining the Community Care Network has provided an opportunity to serve on a broader scale. “By connecting and offering a few minutes of their time, our volunteers are showing our patients that someone truly cares about them,” said Behringer. Sometimes that care is listening; sometimes it is a bridge to such issues as financial concerns, transportation issues, grief counseling, or food insecurities.

As the CCN Social Worker, Behringer collaborates with many interdisciplinary teams and oversees the patient placement process. This includes recognizing their unique needs, connecting them with the most appropriate congregation equipped to address those needs, and tracking their progress throughout their engagement with CCN.

“One of the important things my small community instilled in me is a strong feeling of connection and support that I never knew I needed,” said Behringer. “The other was a strong desire to help others experience the wonderful blessings that connection can offer, especially for those have no one.”


Social Work