Last week was the first week since I was asked to begin blogging here that I didn't write. Last Friday, for the first time since I started this 1st post-MSW job 8+ months ago, I took a vacation day. It made me realize that I am not very good at practicing what I preach.
In many industries, vacation time is easy; someone else fills in the paperwork, someone else crunches the numbers, someone else removes a gall bladder, someone else mops the floors. In our field though, we're not so easily interchanged or separated from our clients. Many times, our clients don't want to share their secrets and their stories with anyone except us, the person they have built trust with. Many times, that leads us to work through our personal pain, our desire to relax, or to skip the vacation time with loved ones. We fear leaving our clients, our coworkers, our offices, our paperwork. So we stay. We work during times of divorce, too soon after medical procedures, far past the hours we are paid, and we miss out on making memories with others in our personal lives in order to help clients heal from the painful memories they've made.
It's a bit like being a superhero; putting the world first, saving the universe one client at a time, right? Realistically though, it is perhaps the worst thing we can do for our clients and for the world.
We work in a field with little pay, little public support, often little community support, high crime, high risk, high stress, and with too-heavy workloads. It's not surprising that our burnout rate is so high. But maybe the vaccine for that is to try to be our own advocate when it comes to vacations, meal breaks, and healing time. Maybe we need to step up for ourselves, even when it goes against our initial instinct, and force ourselves to step back, to breathe, and to regroup.
As I said, this isn't something I'm by any means an expert about, but I'm going to try harder and I hope, by writing about it here, and with this new awareness, that I'll get better at it as I go along.
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.
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