Helping Families Get the Care They Need — and Loving It

When Candace Swiney was nine years old, her family lost everything in a fire. Her most vivid memory of that time is how someone stepped up to help.

“My mom’s boss’ wife was very active in the community and made sure we got a place to live, clothes and food — and that’s what shaped me,” Candace says. More specifically, it shaped her career as a Nemours Children’s community health worker — a job that can be part nurse, part social worker and part handywoman. “I’ve always been resourceful, and this position lets me help solve a lot of problems,” Candace says.

A trained medical assistant, she is one of four Nemours community health workers in the Delaware Valley. They live in the same communities as their patients and serve as connections between them and our health care system.

“People see them at the store, in church and at their children’s schools, which makes them trusted members of the community,” says our care coordination director, Gina Hamilton. 

Candace says she’s happiest when she is helping and feels lucky that that’s what she does all day. No day is the same.

Because she is both a supervisor and a worker in the neighborhoods, mornings are often filled with calls and emails. After that, she may visit a family with a child who has asthma, bringing helpful supplies like a mattress and pillow covers, household cleaning kits and even fly swatters. Frequently, she’ll knock on doors if someone has missed a doctor’s appointment without calling ahead.

“People here live in the moment,” she says. “I recently had one mom who was called in to work at the last minute.”

Faith in doctors can also be an issue. Some of Candace’s neighbors have family legacies of mistrust in health systems or have been subject to misinformation about vaccines on the radio or social media. “They may have a concern about doctors who don’t look like them,” Candace says. “It’s very important that they get to see that you are part of their world and you don’t live above them.”

Sometimes the problem is as simple as a disconnected phone or a parent’s car trouble that prevents families from keeping appointments. Candace’s job is to sort through all these issues to make sure children get the care they need.

“I tell them it’s okay to go to the doctor, okay to ask questions, and okay to get care for your child,” Candace says. “We’re part of the family is what I usually tell them.”

For Candace, that role is part of her personality. For us, it’s the essence of our mission to go “well beyond medicine."