Celebrating National Social Work Month

Social Work Breaks Barriers! March is Social Work Month, and more than 700,000 social workers nationwide entered the profession because they have a strong desire to assist those in need and make our communities, our nation, and our world a better place for all.

posted on 3/6/2023 in Features

For generations, social workers have broken barriers to help people live better lives, and they continue to break barriers by empowering people in tough situations. You will find social workers practically everywhere, working in schools, hospitals, mental health care facilities, veteran centers, child welfare agencies, and in local, state, and federal government.

St. Anthony Regional Hospital is privileged to have nine social workers in seven different departments.

Melissa Schultes graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1987 with her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She started work at St. Anthony in 1992 as the first full-time social worker.  As one of the hospital social workers/discharge planners, her position includes screening and seeing all individuals hospitalized on the third floor for medical or surgical needs in addition to all pediatric patients and new moms in The Birth Place. Furthermore, Melissa follows skilled care/swing bed patients – meeting with their families and assessing each patient’s goals and needs. Melissa also helps facilitate the Parkinson’s disease support group/Delay the Disease exercise class that meets weekly. She is on the St. Anthony Wellness at Work committee as well as the Carroll County Wellness Coalition. She works closely with Chaplain Luis in spiritual care and assists with spiritual care on-call needs. 

Luanne Kustra graduated from Marycrest College in 1982 with her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She has been the St. Anthony Nursing Home social worker since September 2001. Luanne wears a variety of hats in the nursing home: receiving referrals, giving tours, assisting with admissions, conducting assessments to monitor both resident cognition and mood, performing both financial and discharge planning, facilitating the monthly Alzheimer’s Support Group, aiding the Spiritual Care department, educating both internally and externally. Luanne enjoys supporting residents by providing an environment, policies and routines that enable residents to maximize their independence and dignity.

Sara Skinner graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 1999 with her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and later returned for her Master's in Social Work with a specialization in Trauma Informed Practice in 2019. Sara's past work includes helping families become self-sufficient, working with children and adults utilizing the home and community-based waivers, remedial-behavioral health services, and family team meeting facilitation. Sara has worked as the Healthy Opportunities for Parents to Experience Success (H.O.P.E.S.) Coordinator and Carroll County Nest Manager since June 2008. H.O.P.E.S. is an in-home service that helps families on the journey through pregnancy and the adventure of parenting and child development. The Nest is an incentive program that rewards healthy choices and education during pregnancy and parenting to age 3. Sara enjoys working with families and helping them meet their individual goals and dreams.

Mindi Rotert graduated from Buena Vista University in 1998 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. She has worked in a variety of different social work positions including in-home counseling, foster home coordinator, and nursing home social worker. Mindi joined the Behavior Medicine Unit team at St. Anthony in 2014. Mindi assesses mental health patients’ psychosocial needs and assists them with overcoming barriers to treatment by connecting them to community resources. She facilitates family meetings, provides education and support to patients and families, and coordinates discharge plans for patients. Mindi is the co-chair of St Anthony’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and a member of the Ethics Committee and Mental Health Awareness committee that holds an annual 5K Walk/Run to raise funds for mental health patients' personal needs. She is also a member of the Carroll County Human Services Coalition and the Rolling Hills Community Services Adult Mental Health Advisory Board.

Alexandria Harmening graduated with her Bachelor’s degree at the University of Northern Iowa in Social Work in 2017 before returning to her Alma Mater to obtain her Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Trauma Informed Practice in 2021. Alexandria has experience working in substance use prior to her time at St. Anthony. For the last five years, Alexandria has primarily worked with Dialysis patients, although has enjoyed splitting her time with Behavioral Health and currently, Hospice. Her role comes with some diversity as she performs various screenings and assessments, coordination of care for the patient, and support on an individual basis. She enjoys facilitating a Trauma Sensitive Yoga group on the Behavioral Medicine Unit as well as is involved in the Chronic Kidney Disease Education Class offered by Chronic Care & Dialysis. Her passion can be found in connecting with individuals in order to assist in meeting their needs, either emotional or environmental.

Journey Stork graduated with her Associate’s degree in Human Services from Des Moines Area Community College in 2016, earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Briar Cliff University in 2019, and then obtained her Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on empowerment, social justice, and advocacy from St. Ambrose University in 2021. Journey completed her practicum with St. Anthony before officially becoming an employee in 2019. For the last five years, Journey has primarily served as the Hospice Social Worker / Bereavement Coordinator. As of November 2022, the social workers throughout multiple departments of the hospital have consolidated into a single department with Journey now serving as the Lead Social Worker and Hospice Social Worker / Bereavement Coordinator concurrently. She facilitates the Bereavement Support Group and is an active member on multiple committees. Journey was recently trained in Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) that will allow her to assist and support responders in dealing with normal reactions to abnormal (traumatic) events both within the hospital setting and in the community. She finds privilege and appreciation in supporting individuals and families during some of the most universal—and vulnerable—life experiences: coping with serious illness, facing one’s mortality, the dying process, and bereavement.

Alex Gilland graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult and Family services from Iowa State University in 2016. She has worked in a variety of positions within the field since graduating including family permanency, substance abuse treatment, and youth emergency shelter care coordination. Alex joined the Behavioral Medicine Unit team in 2021, conducting psychosocial assessments and assisting patients with outside support and connecting them to community resources as needed. She facilitates family and team meetings, provides education, support, and resources to patients and families, and coordinates discharge planning for patients. Alex collaborates with community resources to best meet the needs of individuals with mental health needs.

Abbie Mahannah graduated from Buena Vista University in 2019 with her Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. She started her social work career with Boys Town, going into homes with families involved with DHS. Abbie started working as a social worker at St Anthony in March of 2021 with her role being to help patients plan for their discharges. This role includes screening and seeing all individuals hospitalized on the third floor which is the medical/surgical and pediatrics unit, seeing all the new moms in The Birth Place, and following skilled care/swing bed patients. Abbie is a member of the Ethics Committee and Recruitment & Recognition and Retention Committee. She enjoys being able to assist, care, advocate and support the patients and families she serves.

Emilee Lakner graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Northern Iowa in 2010. She has experience as a social worker in a nursing home, hospice and recently started as the Cancer Center Social Worker at St. Anthony in August 2022. She meets with patients and their families during chemotherapy treatments, infusions and radiation treatments to provide companionship and support. She assists with transportation needs, financial concerns, referrals and coordination of care. She also facilitates the Cancer Support Group meetings each month. Emilee enjoys visiting with patients and families and helping them navigate through their cancer journey.

Social Workers

Pictured front row from left: Melissa Schultes, Alex Harmening, Mindi Rotert, Sara Skinner, and Journey Stork, 

Back row from left: Luanne Kustra,  Abbie Mahannah, Emilee Lakner, and Alex Willenborg


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