Congratulations to Kathy Van Zelfden, LMSW, Rainbows’ Mental Health Specialist working with infants and toddlers in Sedgwick County. Kathy was honored as part of the Wichita Business Journal’s Excellence in Health Care-Mental Health feature in the Friday, January 22 issue. You can read the article below.
How did you choose a career in health care? I wanted to be in a helping profession. As a Social Worker in health care, I have been able to support individuals as well as their families in dealing with life changing health conditions, to assist the elderly to remain independent in their homes, and to provide families with tools needed to better bond and understand their child’s social and emotional needs.
What is your greatest professional achievement? My greatest professional achievement has been my work as a Mental Health Specialist at Rainbows United, Inc. for the past 11 years, helping children birth to 5 years of age. Early childhood is the most critical time to influence the child’s life and is often when parents and caregivers’ need the most support. Currently working with children birth to 3 years of age with developmental disabilities and their families, I identify the parents’ behavioral concerns for their child then assess the entire family’s needs. With the parents being the expert with their child, they may choose to seek help when their child’s behavior doesn’t respond as they hoped. This may be difficulty with sleep, physical aggression, parent/child bonding, tantrums, and other difficulties. Thru active listening, education on early childhood social and emotional needs, and effectively communicating, parents’ confidence is strengthened as is their connection with their child. This often leads to calmer behaviors which in the future allow children to learn in school.
What is the best advice you would give to someone considering a career in health care? Health care entails caring for the entire person, not just focusing on their identified illness or need. Their health encompasses their physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing. Be empathetic to their situation. Treating them with dignity, respect, and compassion will go a long way in the healing process.
Are you involved in the community? If so, how? I am a member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Newton and actively support my children’s activities such as sports, scholar’s bowl, singing, and band at Remington High School.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Spend time playing games, cooking, and going for walks with family and friends as well as being involved in church activities, gardening, and outdoor activities.
How has the pandemic affected your job? The pandemic has given me the opportunity to serve families via telecommunication. During the early stages, an influx of mental health referrals came in. Families’ experienced changes in school, child care, jobs, and/or their emotional support systems. My focus was more on determining the parent’s major needs initially then focusing on a child’s behaviors. Families were provided education and support in creating new routines and schedules. This in turn provided an increased security and familiarity, allowing the entire household to be calmer and function more successfully.