Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I wasn't very nice to myself today. And it pissed me off.
One of my coworkers asked me today if I am a nurse, too. I replied, "No, just a social worker." Just. A lot of weight is in that one little word. Just. As in only. As in not important. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was disappointed with myself.
There is nothing just about being a social worker. About all the work I put into becoming a social worker. About having the kind of personality it takes to be a social worker.
The decision to be a social worker isn't typically one that one just makes. You either are a social worker or you're not. It is like a gene, buried somewhere deep inside of you. It is not something you do, it is something you are. It is a part of you.
While obtaining a degree in social work may not be the most grueling process in the world, it is not easy, either. It is a 2-year Masters degree program that includes classes and field placements. A full-time program encompasses 5 3-credit classes plus a 24-hour per week placement per semester. It takes commitment. A lot of reading. A lot of writing.
Going into the field of social work, while it is something you are inherently destined to do, is still something to seriously consider. It is exhausting work. It is emotionally overwhelming. It is high-stress and low-pay. We social workers like to say, "We don't do it for the money!" because, um, we'd be crazy if we did. With a Masters degree, most of us make less than others with Bachelors degrees or even Associates degrees. "We don't do it for the money," but it'd be nice if we were paid according to our work and stress levels. My boss is constantly telling us that she wishes she could pay us more, because it kills her to see how low our pay is for all the shit we put up with.
In my position in particular, as a hospital social worker, we are the ones who get yelled at by overwhelmed and frustrated patients. We are the ones who get blamed with discharges don't happen quickly enough. We are the ones who take the heat when the nurses aren't happy. We take the brunt of everyone's unhappiness...and we do it with a smile.
We appear to have thick skins but we have soft hearts. We put up with all kinds of abuse. We have conversations with people about death and dying. We provide support to patients who are scared about their diagnoses. We reassure families who are feeling guilty about placing their loved ones in nursing homes. We encourage drug addicts who are looking for sobriety.
There is nothing just about being a social worker. It is a noble, important, and necessary profession in this crazy world, and I am damn proud to be one.
Sometimes I need to remind myself of that...
*Images from my Pinterest