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She always knew she wanted to help others. At one point she thought she would be a NICU nurse. Emily Morris eventually found her way caring for NICU families. Now, she’s on another path that is part of a community outreach for IU Health.
By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, firstname.lastname@example.org
On any given day, Emily Morris can be unraveling a snag in someone’s life. It may be that someone needs housing, food, or transportation. That’s the part of her role she likes the best: Partnering with patients to find solutions.
Morris grew up surrounded by people who followed career paths allowing them to nurture others. Her grandmother was a nurse; her mother and grandfather were teachers. At one point Morris thought she might want to be a NICU nurse, and for a time she had her eye on law enforcement.
She grew up in Rochester, Ind. and after graduation studied law and society at Purdue University. Her first jobs involved working with youth at correctional and behavioral health facilities.
“I’m really too much of softy to work in the area of law enforcement so I knew I needed to get my Master’s,” said Morris. She finished graduate school for social work and began working with families as a home-based therapist.
Morris and her husband Randy, met while they were both employed at the former Children’s Bureau, an organization focused on improving child abuse prevention, foster care, and adoption. Morris worked with youth at a residential facility and her husband worked in computer software. They welcomed twin boys, Aidan and Mason, 15 years ago and a daughter, Aubrey, 12 years ago.
As her family grew, Morris’ career took her from home-based therapy to hospital emergency rooms where she worked in crisis intervention. Eight years ago she joined IU Health landing in the place she thought her career would begin - NICU at Riley Hospital for Children.
“My grandmother thought NICU nursing would be too stressful, but here I was working as a social worker. I loved working with the families,” said Morris.
As IU Health made a commitment to expand social work into primary care clinics, Morris saw an opportunity to join the initiative. The focus was on addressing social determinants of health. Patients’ wellbeing is dependent on such things as access to food, transportation and economic stability. A team of social workers is responsible for screening and connecting patients with resources to meet their needs. Last year, Morris became part of IU Health’s Integrated Social Work Team that supports 94 primary care clinics with urgent consultations services. In addition to the clinics, social workers provide assistance to patients at Coleman Center for Women at IU Health.
“Let’s say we have a mom who is homeless. While she is at a doctor visit, an iPad is wheeled into a room and she can have a private conversation with a social worker right then,” said Morris.
“My eyes have been opened to the growing needs of older patients. Many need help at home. They are living on a fixed income, need food, can’t bathe safely on their own, or secure transportation to appointments or to get the basics to live,” said Morris. She relates other challenges - language barriers, and lack of family and community support. It’s her job to connect them to the community resources they need.
“I work with a wonderful team and we are on a group chat where we talk through situations and try to find solutions,” said Morris. “I’d say, I like crisis work. I’m calm, easy going, patient, a good listener and I’m not afraid to ask for help.”
When she’s away from work, Morris enjoys playing cards with her husband, volunteering at church, and attending her children’s sporting events.