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Friday, August 20, 2010

On the right path?

“This is Doris,” I said, picking up the phone receiver with one hand as I continued typing on the computer keyboard with the other. It’s amazing how social workers learn, or are forced to become multi-tasking. There is never enough time to complete all that is required in a day’s work.  

“The social workers are here,” the receptionist announced. 

“Good!” I exclaimed. I’ll be there in a minute,” I replied, hanging up. 

Three social workers that had recently joined the medical department at a local hospital had arrived to meet me. They had expressed their desire to visit our facility and learn more about our services. I was quite excited to give them a tour. I am always eager to interact and network with colleagues.  

I met the three girls. They were in her twenties, dressed casual, and looked excited. I walked them through the facility, showing them all areas, and explained  the services provided. While walking the halls, I noticed them glancing at residents. Most of my residents were in wheelchairs, some in bed, and others ambulated with the assistance of a walker. I was proud of my residents. They looked clean, well groomed, and happy. Some of the residents greeted at the social workers. 

We paused at the rehabilitation gym, one of my favorite areas. I love to see the residents getting stronger, recuperating, and redeveloping their physical and mental capacities.  And I love even more when I see them leaving the facility, going back to their home.

One of the social workers expressed her approval as she observed residents in therapy,  working the machines with their frail and slender arms which, with work, would gain endurance and be worth all the muscle stiffness and pain. A truly amazing scene. 

Next, we headed to my second favorite place: the beauty shop. Several ladies were under hair dryers, getting glamorous hair styles. Others were being manicured. Anne, the beautician, is a very patient woman who enjoys making the nursing home ladies look pretty and stylish. I stopped for a good few minutes there, and gave the social workers a speech about self-esteem, femininity and dignity.   
“As you can see, most of the ladies in this facility take pride on their personal appearance,” I gladly noted.  

I walked to the door, heading back into the hall. When I turned and looked back, I noticed that the social workers had not followed me. They were still in the beauty shop. 

 Are they talking to the ladies? I wondered. They must have liked the place too, I mused, smiling. But then, after I glanced inside of the shop again, I noticed that one girl was wiping tears from her eyes, and the other two surrounded her, consoling her. 

“Are you okay?” I asked.  “I’m fine. Sorry,” the tearful woman replied with her soft voice cracking.  

We all headed into the hall, and I continued my tour, trying not to think of the social worker’s emotional episode.  

After I finished the tour I gave the girls some literature and my business card. They all seemed appreciative of the tour. 

After they left  I went back to my office and wondered what had happened. Did the facility or residents bring back sad memories? I was unsure what could have possibly triggered such a reaction. I sympathize with the girl, but I was also concerned about a social worker not being able to control her emotions in front of the population that actually needs her support.  

I later thought about the incident, hoping that the young woman would become emotionally stronger as she advanced down her career path. The more she interacts with patients and families in the hospital, the more self-confident she will become, I anticipated. 

A few months later, I was visiting some of my residents in the hospital. I came across one of the social workers that visited the facility. I was glad to see that she was assigned to one of my residents. I observed her working with self-confidence and pride. I was pleased. 

After we talked about my resident I drew closer to her. “How is the other girl doing, the one that was tearful that day?” I whispered.  

“She’s gone. She couldn’t handle the job” 

I was astonished but not surprised. 

I left the hospital immersed in thoughts about the young social worker that was gone. I wanted to believe that she had opted for another area of intervention more suitable to her aspirations and desires. 

I prayed that she had found the right path on her career. 


Diane said...

I hope so too. Obviously she was very caring towards the needs she saw. :O)

Alice in Wonderland said...

It must take a lot of patience and care to do a Social Workers work, and your work load must be heavy. The things that you see in everyday life may not be suited to everyone.
You are the people that I admire the most.
Hopefully this young girl took away something from her visit.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

Not all jobs are meant for all people... We've come across several that were 'in' the wrong spot and that does no one any good. Hope she too has found her niche, something that she's emotionally and physically up to.
You at least tried to rub it off on those girls, by touring your facility and explaining things the way they are. Not all do want to be the tour guide in someone else's life for the very last stretch...

Lots of love from Georgia and thanks for all you do!


Miley said...

For about 10 years, I stayed away from the profession because I was afraid that I would not be able to handle the emotions. At the time it was a good decision - I needed to grow some more.
I hope this young lady has been able to grow in a place that is more suited for her.

Jane said...

There is a place for those who can rise above their emotions, and a place for those who would shed their tears.

MTJ said...

Hi Doris,

This is my first time commenting on your blog. Although our careers differ, I have much admiration for your profession. Like the young woman you described, it was something which I realized I couldn't do. My passion has always been with technology and only recently have I recognized a passion to write.

This post reminds me of the depth, compassion, love and grace God extends to me. To know that you and others share in the ministry of grace encourages me. I hope that my efforts help in some small way to benefit others.

Blessings and peace.


Carol Kilgore said...

Social workers are extremely important in today's world. The jobs you do keep the rest of us from going bonkers when we're faced with our own stress. Thanks for all your great work. It's a job I couldn't do.

Just Be Real said...

Oh wow what a touching story. She was certainly overwhelmed that day indeed. Only God knows her real calling. Appreciate you sharing this story. Thank you. Blessings.

Terri Tiffany said...

When I first worked as a social worker a few years back, I was not prepared for the casual way death was handled. Although I knew not to show my emotions there at work, I shed many tears at home. Years later, when I returned to the field, I had been through mre with my own family in nursing homes and felt more adequate to deal with all the areas. But it is a shock to many to see what our senior citizens go through. One of the reasons I left this spring was due to the way they were being treated. That was far more difficult to handle than death.

Bica said...

This post really struck home with me. I'm not a social worker (one of my daughters is), but I work with social workers everyday. We have people come into our office to meet with their SW and RN, and some of them really strike a chord in me. We had a woman come in last week, who was older, and walked like she had a pretty bad back. Her hair was fixed nicely (short with little curls), and she had on a striped blouse with a little scarf tied around her neck that matched the colors in her blouse perfectly. She looked very nice, and she she made the effort to look nice. For some reason, when she left I got all teary-eyed. I knew that most people wouldn't notice her pretty matching scarf, or her efforts to make her hair pretty. Most people would look at her and see a "nice old lady."

notesfromnadir said...

This is really a great way to learn more about what you do. Maybe the girl will be able to handle such a demanding job later on in her life. Or maybe she's more suited to another job. Like you, I hope she finds her path!

DUTA said...

The profession of social worker falls into that category of professions that deal mainly with the sad aspects of life (old age, dissabilities, homelessness, death). Therefore strength of character is important in the student that intends to embrace this sort of profession.

Anyway, interesting, well written story. Thanks for sharing.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

It's a difficult line to walk: hard enough to deal with the trauma but soft enough to love the people going through it. One of my friends wrote a short story once called "Hardening of the Arteries" about what it took for her to become a nurse.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Wow, I really enjoyed this post. You're a great writer. I hope that she can find herself as well. I know that it's in her heart to help others. My prayers are with her, too.

Thanks for visiting my blog! <3

Unknown said...

Reaching out to others takes some inner strength in the giver. Hope she has found her calling somewhere.

Claus said...

Hola!! greetings from Guatemala! Muchas gracias :-) for visiting my blog! and thank you for sharing your experiences. There are two things I knew from the beginning I was not going to do well. Not because I couldn't handle it, but because I would get too emotional while at them. I am a strong person, and a passionate one when it comes to 1. the elderly and 2. animals, and while I would have fought to the end for their rights, I know I would have been...hurt?...and hence unable to do well afterwards. Do you know what waht I mean? Does it make sense? I suppose that while some people have good intentions, and believe in certain careers, there is something within that could interfere, instead of help. And recognizing it is the best. I'm glad for the girl who continued her journey in the field of Social Working, but also glad that the other one realized she wouldn't have been all her best.
anyways, my two cents :-))
have a lovely day!!

Arlee Bird said...

The "clients" of those in professional positions need to see a strength exhibited by those who are monitoring them to keep them feeling confident in the care that I receive. It would be rather unnerving for example if my doctor were about to tell me my test results and broke out in tears. I would not be feeling very optimistic.

It is not cold and uncaring to be calm and deliberate, it is merely professional. Hopefully the young worker found a place where her compassion could be more appropriately expressed.

Tossing It Out

Unknown said...

Gustavo Osmar Santos
Estuvo Aquí...wonderfull.

Padraic Murray said...

Wonderful post - personal, insightful and moving. We can easily judge the moral health of a nation by the way it treats its elderly.

Lenny Lee said...

hi miss doris! my brother works in mental stuff with real sick people and some use lots of bad drugs. its a hard job and you gotta be like him and be real caring. he says its ok to feel what you feel and say how you feel. some people cant do this job cause its way to much for their heart. my brother says you gotta be balanced in your life so you could do a good job helping.
...smiles from lenny

Carmen Araneta said...

I admire you for your courage and determination in handling the job of a social worker. God's anointing is upon you. Be blessed even more.

Nicole said...

When you get a chance, please read my blog post for today. I could really use your insight. I will be back by later today to comment on your post. God bless you and thanks!

Nicole said...

As your story progressed I was hoping that the young lady had stuck it out. I too hope that she found the best career path. I do believe that the type of work that you do is a calling. Not everyone can do it. How do you keep it together? As a young girl I enjoyed volunteering at the nursing home where my mom worked in the cafeteria. Seeing the residents happy and thriving is a great blessing. I don't see it as anything sad. Like you said, perhaps someone in the beauty shop reminded her of someone. Thanks for sharing this. I feel like I was there walking the halls and taking the tour with you!

NENSA MOON said...

Hi Doris,
This is a very nice story!!
I also hope that girl with a tearing eyes will find the right job which really suit her...

Thank you so much for coming to my site the other day and also followed, today I'll return the favor...sorry for my belate visit.

I'll waiting you in my site, my new friend!
Have a fabulous day!

poorni said...

Excellent. thers a lot to learn from your experiences.thanks for sharing

Jennifer Lane said...

Hi Doris,
Nice to meet you at the blog barbecue! I'm Jen and I'm a psychologist/author. There was a time during my training that I questioned if I was cut out for this work, but then I got my own therapy and that helped immensely. It's an honor to do what we do.

Brian Miller said...

i have hope that she will as well...sometimes it takes us a while to get where we need...or are intended...

interestingly enough i work with a lot of social workers...i do intensive in home with kids at risk of being removed...

Shen said...

It must be hard to hear and see all the things you encounter in a day. I sometimes wonder how my therapist can handle it. Some of the things I've had to tell her were really ugly, and there is more that I haven't been able to voice. She said, "I've heard many ugly things. Nothing you say will be new to me."

That's really sad, in a way. I know she is strong. She's told me that she has worked through her own abuse issues in childhood and has helped many others since then and that it is no longer triggering for her.

Even so, I hold back. I don't want to hurt her more and the things in my head are so ugly that it seems impossible that she could hear them and not be affected.

blessings for the work you do.