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Woman To Watch: Social worker Jennifer Oyer


If you look at Jennifer Oyer’s home screen on her cell phone, you’ll see the Maya Angelou quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

After all, Oyer’s profession is about understanding how others feel.

The social worker at a Rochester Regional Health outpatient dialysis unit has been in the field for over 20 years, and she works with patients from ages 20 to 90 to assist their dialysis needs.

“The goal is to be there for that person to talk to, or when someone feels like their alone,” Oyer said. “I think as patients they may feel like they’ve lost control, and to decide to receive care at home and make that decision, they take back control.”

When it came to her education, Oyer’s mother’s passion as a nurse inspired her to work in the medical field. She received her bachelor's degree in social work from Nazareth College and her masters of social work from Syracuse University.

Oyer began her career at Highlands Living Center where she worked at a skilled nursing facility providing nursing home care. While at the Pittsford facility, she worked with her first dialysis patients. In 1996, she moved on to Rochester Rehabilitation Center, providing outpatient care to adults with mental health disabilities. A year later, she began working in a dialysis unit at St. James Mercy Hospital in Hornell, Orleans County. And last May, she joined Rochester Regional Health.

Now, Oyer is the 2016 recipient of the Excellence in Social Work Care for Rochester Regional Health — an outstanding achievement.

Oyer realized that this was the field she was meant to be in while at St. James Mercy Hospital. She connected with a female patient who chose to end her dialysis services yet the family of the patient kept Oyer in the loop, providing updates on the patient’s well-being.

“I was amazed that the family kept me involved,” she said. “You become a part of their survival team. It’s those types of experiences that give me those 'aha' moments.”

Oyer is convinced that people will always remember how you made them feel, and she is determined to leave positive feelings with her patients along the way.

Personal: Age 43, married, one son, lives in Arkport, Steuben County.

Recent achievements: Winner of the 2016 Excellence in Social Work Practice Award for

Rochester Regional Health Care; facilitated SW Continuing Education Workshop for renal social workers.

Who inspired me: The person who has inspired me the most is my mother. She worked very hard as a nurse and was still able to spend a lot of time with me and my father. My mother has a chronic illness and inspires me to persevere through anything in life, no matter what challenges you are faced with every day.

My future goals: Professionally, my goals are to be able to continue to work in the medical social work field in hopes of helping people to deal with their chronic illnesses and maintain good quality to their lives. Personally, my goals are to continue to work together with my supportive husband to raise our son to be a confident young man who is able to see his bright future and to continue to strive to achieve his dreams in life.

My average workday: I get up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready to leave for work, as I live an hour south of Rochester. I arrive at work by 7:30 a.m. My day usually goes by very fast, as I am busy seeing home dialysis patients at the Rochester Regional Health/Rochester General Home Dialysis Center. I am very lucky to work with such a wonderful team of professionals. We work collectively to deliver the best care we can to our patients.

Advice to someone just starting out in their career: I would advise them to just take their time. You don’t have to go out and save the world, just help someone when you can. Stay “humble and kind” as Tim McGraw would say.

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