Cedars-Sinai Blog

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Paula Glashausser, Social Worker

Cedars-Sinai pediatric social worker Paula Glashausser.

A native Angeleno, Paula Glashausser grew up admiring Cedars-Sinai on drives to her church, but it was a personal tragedy that put her on a path to working here.

The pediatric social worker reflects on making peace with her past, the importance of family—in all its forms—and how shepherding children through illness mirrors her own journey to healing.

Childhood trauma

When I was 7, I was in a severe car accident. I suffered really complex injuries—head trauma and broken bones, awful road rash all over and multiple surgeries. At one point, I stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated. It was terrifying as a child to be in the intensive care unit for so long and to have such horrible injuries.
It was also a very difficult time, because I lost my mom in the car accident. She liked the color yellow and sunflowers. She was very kind, very giving and very loving.
When I was in the hospital, the medical team became part of our family. They were with me all the time, and they supported me.
I didn't know what people's different roles were at the time, but after that experience, I just knew I wanted to help others. That's why I got into this work.

"Children really appreciate honesty."

Light ahead

When the opportunity to work with children came up—I'll be honest—at first, I was a little scared to take it because of my personal trauma. But as soon as I started, I felt this was exactly where I needed to be.

I work with kids who have chronic conditions, either kidney disease or patients newly diagnosed with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. I assess their mental health and related risks, create safety plans, link them to community resources and make sure their needs are being met. I also provide counseling and emotional support.

I like to always focus on their strengths and their resilience and help show them they've already conquered so much. There is light ahead of them, and they can achieve anything.

My patients are anywhere from newborns to their early 20s. I've had kids whom I met as soon as I started, and I still see them once every three months. I tell them, "I'm your forever social worker. I'm always here if you need anything."

A recipe for helping kids

Paula Glashausser

I listen. I try to get to know each patient as a person before I get to the complex stuff—and focus on treating them as an individual.

I have empathy and can really feel with these kids, because I was once in shoes very similar to theirs. Children really appreciate honesty.

Sometimes kids will open up and cry, which makes me feel we've created a safe space for them. To be able to come here and release all those emotions can be really helpful, because a lot of those kids may not have another outlet.

Unfortunately, with COVID-19, we've been seeing an increase in anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. Kids really lost the structure they had in their lives. It's been tough, especially on our kids who are immunocompromised and high-risk.

Parents really need to check in regularly and make sure kids are OK. Talk with them. Take them for a walk. Provide them with support and understanding.

Finding balance

Here at Cedars-Sinai, all of us are so caring. We really care about our patients and their families, and sometimes it's very hard to not take that home with you. It took me many years to learn to do that.

Part of my self-care is to set a boundary that when I walk out of here, I leave it at the door, and I'll pick it up first thing when I get back in. It is hard, but I really try to stick with that to make sure I'm taking care of myself, so I can provide the best possible care for my patients.

"I have empathy, because I once was in shoes very similar to theirs."

A larger purpose

I grew up going to Our Lady of Mount Lebanon Catholic Church. I was baptized there, and my husband, Tom, and I were married by the priest there.

It's hard to believe you can survive something like my accident, physically speaking, and still have the ability to walk without a higher power. God has always been there to protect me.

The trauma has been with me my whole life. You carry that with you forever. It's something you have to learn to cope with. But it really helps me when I help other people, too. It makes me feel like I have a purpose—like that happened to me for a reason—because now it helps me give back.

Life is so much bigger than what we see on a regular basis.

Lasting lessons

We can't take things for granted. Appreciate the people you love. Tell them that you love them.

Sometimes when I'm walking home from work, I'll stop for a minute and just listen to the birds chirp, close my eyes and take that in.

I try to find joy in every single day that we wake up breathing and moving and thinking, because that can be taken away from us in an instant.  

Paula Glashausser, Pediatric Social Worker holding a teddy bear.