Welcome to The New Social Worker's Blog

The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year Greetings

I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and successful new year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Happy New Year

As the New Year approaches, I am filled with a sense of excitement for my future. Surprisingly, I am also doing a bit of grieving. I know it's normal. While I am not questioning my decision to go back to school and embark on this new path, I know that I am letting go of some old goals and dreams.

The really cool thing is I will always be a writer. No matter whether I work at the magazine where I am employed or not, I will always have the skill set to be a writer. I have to say, this writing gig with The New Social Worker Online is a real gift for me. I can still do what I love and gear it toward my new dreams and goals.

So, as I cut my hours at my day job where I am an editor, I will add hours toward getting my Masters in social work. And I will write for this magazine. Sounds like a win-win.

I look forward to hearing from you as I stay the course. I'd love to hear about your dreams and hopes.

I wish you the happiest of New Years.

--Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Field Practice Orientation: IOP Rehab

It felt like an interview.

I had to fill out a 25-page application. I went up to the receptionist's window at one point and asked if they had given me the wrong paperwork. She assured me they hadn't.

They wanted a 10-year employment history. Luckily I've been with the same company for 10 years or I might still be there.

The lobby of the Intensive Out-patient rehab center was buzzing with constant activity. The front door opened and closed every few minutes and I had no idea who anyone was or what they were doing.

A very loud conversation rattled my brain as I tried to concentrate on the forms I was filling out.

Name, date of birth, height, weight (sheesh!), social security number (yikes! I was recently a victim of identity theft), address, current employment, etc.

I repeated this info on several different forms. The words were flying off the pages: confidentiality statements, background check information, criminal records...

By the time I was led back to an office for orientation, my head was spinning with over-stimulation. Once I was settled into a private office with a congenial man to discuss the employee handbook, I started to relax and I was able to comprehend what he was saying. We talked easily and joked a little bit with one another.

I met the two directors of the program before orientation was finished and soon I was being led out of the building to my car.

I will learn to take deep belly breaths!

My mantra: "This is a general field experience. I am an observer. I do not have to know everything in one day. I am not in control. This is temporary."

The dream is becoming a reality. I look forward to the journey.

--Ms. T. J.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The company I keep

I may be one of the few people who can be somewhat grateful for the state of the economy.

It is actually a good thing that I need to cut back my hours from 40 to 30 next semester. My editor said she might have had to cut some people's hours if revenue didn't pick up, so I feel like I took one for the team! Who says I'm not a team player?

Wow. Talk about timing. If business was booming, she might have said, "Sorry. We need you here 40 hours, or else..."

Instead, she said she might not be able to bring my status back to 40 hours immediately following the semester's end. I told her I didn't expect her to, and I know it would be hard for me to go back to 40 anyway.

I am counting my blessings today. I get to stay a while longer at a decent wage and, most importantly, I get to keep my benefits. That was my deal breaker. I carry the benefits for my husband and me, and I was most concerned about that.

I can keep my full benefits as long as I work 30 hours per week.

So, what do you think, fellow students and Master's level social workers? Can I work 30 hours, do a (weekly) 20-hour field practice, take 4 classes and get all my studying and homework done?
I'd really like to hear your stories. How did you do it?

I sometimes worry about the toll on my marriage and my mental health in terms of all of this "doing." I have to remind myself it is temporary. Just one and a-half years to go!

--Ms. T. J.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh, that's just great...

A study recently conducted at the University of New South Wales found that "patients under the age of 65 suffering from frontotemporal dementia (FTD), the second most common form of dementia, cannot detect when someone is being sarcastic." So maybe there's a medical use for Dr. Gregory House's peculiar form of bedside manner, after all.

In the experiment, actors acted out scenarios using the same exact words, but sometimes in a neutral tone and other times in a sarcastic tone. Patients were asked if they "got the joke." The researchers compared the reactions of Alzheimer's patients and those with FTD. The FTD patients were not able to detect when humor or sarcasm was being used.

This has implications for social workers who work with people who have dementia and their families. The study, published in "Brain," helps explain why FTD (also known as "Pick's Disease") patients do not pick up on their caregivers' moods and other social cues. If caregivers and family members are educated about this aspect of the disease, they may be better equipped to cope with it.

Isn't research fun?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Home Alone

I'm not playing hooky.

And my dog is home, too, so technically I'm not completely alone. My husband is back to work after a week of vacation.

I've called in sick. This is the first time in a long time that my migraine medicine is not enough to get me up and out the door. I started having these cyclical headaches several years ago. Apparently it's a perimenopausal malady. Yay. My doctor said that she has it, also.

The first time I experienced a migraine my husband took me to the emergency room at a nearby hospital. We both thought I was having a brain hemorrhage of some kind. I could not even sit up in the waiting room chair; I had to lay with my head on Tim's lap.

Now, when I get the first symptom of dull pain behind my eyes, I take my medicine and, though it makes me a little foggy, I can function amazingly well.

"So what does this have to do with social work," you ask?

It causes me to think about how the other half lives. And I am talking about our nation's poor. What does a woman without insurance do when she gets a perimenopausal migraine every month? How does she manage her pain and get through the usual three-day cycle of a migraine?
As a social worker, I will refer this woman to Medbank or a local clinic to get the medicine she needs. Unlike me, she will need to jump through lots of hoops and when she finally gets a medicine, it may not work for her. She may just head to the emergency room when she gets a debilitating headache. Of course, this will be said to be a financial drain on the hospital.

What is the answer? This physical and social dilemma can be applied to every illness from depression to lung cancer.

I believe every American should have equal access to health care. Plain and simple. I don't have to present all the research that supports the positive outcomes of socialized medicine and health care. This isn't a term paper, and my thought process is a bit challenged today.

I wish for all people the ease with which I can access the health care that I need. Wow. Wouldn't that be the greatest holiday gift of all?

--Ms. T. J.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Chiming In

Hello! I am Linda Grobman, publisher/editor of The New Social Worker, and by now I guess you know that we have a new blog! I am very excited to welcome T. J., our student blogger, who will be sharing her experiences with us as she completes her MSW. She will also be writing a series of articles in the magazine, starting in the Winter issue (January 2009).

I will also be chiming in here from time to time to bring you news, resources, and other "social-worky" stuff in between issues of The New Social Worker and the Social Work E-News.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Invest in yourself

Greetings Social Workers-

The responses to my last post make me feel like I am with my "peeps," or my "tribe," as a therapist once said. "You'll know when you are in the right place because you will fit in with the tribe," she said.

Thank you.

You all (or y'all as we say in the South) reminded me of another wise woman from my past. She explained to me, when I was contemplating leaving a job to take a less stressful one that paid less money, that I needed to make an investment in myself -- and my future.

I was getting stuck about the money. I had a belief that I should never take a job that paid less than the one I had. Never mind that the stress was bearing down on me. Never mind that the new opportunity was really appealing.

I followed her advice -- and my heart. I never regretted it. And before long, my salary was equal to, and soon surpassed, the former one.

Thanks for reminding me that I am, once again, investing in myself and my future. I'll stay the course, and I hope you'll stay with me.

--Ms. T. J.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The first post is the hardest (the first cut is also the deepest!)

Hello social workers!

I am excited to begin this blog which may just serve to keep me sane in the coming days. I am a full-time employee getting my Master's degree in Social Work. Until now, my schedule has been pretty reasonable. All of my classes have been on Saturdays and my day job is just that: 9-5, M-F.

In January I will begin my first field practice which will entail 20 hours during the daytime (9-5). I will also have a full day of classes on Tuesdays.
If we do the math, that's 28 hours that will cut right into my 40-hour work week.

My life is about to change big time.

Last Monday (Dec. 1), I spoke with my boss about the schedule changes. I made a proposal to stay and work less hours at different times (afternoons, evenings and Saturdays.) I am awaiting her decision after she speaks with the publisher.

I am an editor at a city magazine. Ironically,
this fall I got a promotion. For more than 5 years I have worked at the mag, and now I have everything I ever wanted in terms of job description.

There are just a few minor glitches. No. 1: I want to be a social worker.

Glitch No. 2: It would be nice to keep the job for a little bit longer. While I am lucky to have a partner who has a great job and is very supportive, you know how it is when you get used to two incomes. I also carry the insurance for the two of us.

And, I've "turned it over." I am trusting "the universe" to make this work. I will do all the footwork and then let it go. There is nothing I can change about the situation. My field practice is set. I will be doing my generalist practice at TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) beginning Jan. 12. There is no turning back.

Stay tuned. I'll let you know how it comes out. Will I be given the chance to continue at the magazine or will I be looking at Plan B (Starbucks does offer full benefits at 20 hours)? Either way, I am sure it will be okay.

-- Ms. T. J.