Reflections of a Social Worker - National Social Work Month 2019
I came across a definition of a social worker which pretty much summed up a recent day. First the day… while on my way to meet the mother of a child that I was told may or may not have understood the nurses instructions on obtaining prescriptions due to a language barrier, I received a call regarding a facility patient “possibly” threatening suicide and I was still in the midst of working to address a procedural question that several supervisors had weighed in on with differing expectations.
Social Worker noun: an individual who does precise guess-work based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.
See also wizard, miracle worker
As a Social Worker my primary goal is to help people in need. However, being in need means different things to different people. Hence the educated guesswork in determining just what is desired and what will be required to meet the perceived need whether real or imagined, spoken or unspoken. As a Medical Social Worker in hospice those needs can often take on deeper significance.
To the Alzheimer’s patient the voices are real; she is anxious because the long dead spouse is still alive in her mind and should be home. She needs a calm comforting voice willing to go back in time to connect with her world. For the father holding vigil over a dying child words may not be needed but empathy and compassionate presence are clearly required. For the nurse, who tried to reeducate the family once again that the fear of addiction to the morphine is the lesser priority, a hug is offered with words of reassurance that she has done her best to maintain comfort. For the husband about to lose his wife of 65 years the need is to have someone listen one more time to the story of how they met.
I have the privilege of working with a team of trained health care professionals. Together we function in an interdisciplinary model of service designed to pool our knowledge and skills. We address the specific task of end of life care being played out in a thousand different ways with people of all ages and from every walk of life. It has been said that there is wisdom in many counselors and that has proven true across my ten years as a hospice social worker.
I am thankful for those other disciplines even when we don’t see eye to eye on what is needed. I have great respect for the doctors, nurses, chaplains, hospice aides and volunteers I serve with. But in this month celebrating Social Work, it is my colleagues in that field I want to praise for their compassion and integrity. They serve in all kinds of settings working to ensure access to information, services, and resources. They facilitate meaningful participation in decision making. They respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person and recognize the value of human relationships. They know they must behave in a trustworthy manner to be an effective advocate and they work hard to act responsibly to promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations they are affiliated with. They are lifelong learners continually striving to increase their professional knowledge and skills and apply those in their practice.
We serve people who are struggling with issues big and small. Some are open to receiving help, some are afraid to ask and some refuse to let us meet them even half way. Still we try. I would like to share a quote that I believe reflects the social worker’s perspective.
“All are masked sometimes by silence, arrogance, anger.
We cannot judge the package by its wrappings.
We can only accept its contents
as having value.”
Please take some time to say thank you to a social worker this month. A little praise can go a long way.