I have worked in many settings during my social work career and have enjoyed certain aspects of nearly all of them. As an outpatient child and adolescent therapist I became accustomed to spending my days in an office I had outfitted to be as comfortable for my clients as possible. The dim secondary lighting, the beanbag chair, and all of the hands-on games and objects present had the desirable added bonus of providing me with my own safe and comfortable environment.
When I went to work as a hospital social worker I appreciated the freedom to move around the campus as much as I needed or wanted. The facility was like its own little city, filled with different and seemingly unrelated departments and units that were, in fact, shot through with the common thread of the hospital’s personnel. Previously an incurable introvert, the hospital helped me develop a healthy and robust extroverted side as I had such a high volume of contact with so many different people. I came to thrive on these relationships and am still pleasantly surprised to see so many nurses and social workers that I know when I visit the hospital for various reasons, work or otherwise.
Performing social work at an inpatient dialysis clinic was a completely different experience and probably my least favorite setting. I relished having access to my patients on such a regular basis, but it was difficult to be in the building hour upon hour every day with not enough work to keep me busy. The atmosphere on the floor of the clinic, where the patients received their treatments, was thick with the boredom and frustration that emanated from the people that viewed dialysis as a life sentence rather than a life-saving medical intervention. I found the overall experience rather depressing.
So I enjoyed being in an office as long as I had my own space and plenty of clients and work to keep me busy, but my restless side yearned for the freedom to wander from room to room and floor to floor that the hospital provided. Surely there was some sort of compromise.
Enter hospice social work. There I found a job that might have eaten me alive had I not been a seasoned veteran by the time I entered the realm, but that happened to come along at the perfect time. I have the luxury of an office, but probably spend less than five hours per week there. The rest of my time is spent doing two of my favorite things: driving and talking to people. I am simply given a caseload and geographical territory and am responsible for managing them. My office is a 2013 Camaro SS with satellite radio and my computer is my iPhone, the bare essentials I need to perform my work. I subsist on protein bars, coffee, and loud music as I cruise from nursing homes to hospitals to assisted living facilities to patients’ homes, all the while practicing a very specialized and complex form of social work that melds clinical skills with medical knowledge and appropriate care planning and documentation. I feel like one of Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums”, a modern day nomadic social worker delivering hope and compassion. This suits me perfectly and I am profoundly grateful that such a possibility exists.
In short, everything I have done career-wise has prepared me for this particular niche, and my great fortune is not lost on me. I wish all of you a similar path as you toil in the trenches. Until next time.