A Day in the Life of a Social Worker
James, May 28, 2013
Are you interested in becoming a social worker, or looking at a career in care? If so then this piece written by a social worker named Jesse might just be the insight you are looking for. Jesse has kindly written a very honest piece, discussing the highs and the lows, the motivation and the rewards, and what it really takes to be in the profession. Read on as we join Jesse on...
A Day in the Life of a Social Worker
A successful career in social work was the carrot that I constantly dangled before my own nose during every late-night study session of my school years. Having obtained good results, I was granted a bursary by the Department of Health and went on to complete a degree that combined social work with mental health studies. The day that I was registered with the Health and Care Professions Council was the proudest of my life. It is not a career for the faint hearted nor is it an extremely lucrative one, but the knowledge that my presence makes a significant difference to the lives of the most vulnerable members of society more than compensates.
I chose to work for the NHS and to specialise in adult services. Social work has no fixed hours. My job involves helping those who, for a variety of reasons, cannot accomplish the daily tasks associated with health, hygiene and nutrition without assistance. My daily schedule is basically governed by whatever times are most suitable for the socially, physically or mentally challenged people who fill my case files. It is also very much dependant on whether the fates are amicable to spending a day devoid of crisis. A criticism that can never be levelled at this demanding job of mine is that it is boring. Here is a summary of yesterday’s experiences.
I left home at 6:30am in order to get to Apple’s flat before anxiety ruined her day. Known simply as Granny Smith, she had always somehow imagined that I would find it difficult to remember her name and would constantly remind me that it was the same as that Australian apple variety. Apple is an 81-year-old lady with an endearing child-like quality that makes her giggle every time I pretend to have misunderstood the name comparison and address her as Apple. I imagine it is one of the few times that she has reason to giggle.
Apple suffers from osteoporosis and her movement has been greatly restricted by spinal problems. She is also obsessive about routine. She needs to be washed and dressed by 7:30am, so that she can enjoy breakfast while watching the news on telly. She insists that I eat as well, which is why I usually bring supplies. Having lost her husband a decade ago and with her only daughter now living in Canada, Apple has little social contact, but stubbornly refuses to leave the home they shared for a facility where she will receive better care and more company. I tidy the kitchen and then make sure she takes her meds before leaving her happily engrossed in the news and with a promise not to be late for the dinner ritual. It is 8:15am and I have an appointment with Dennis at 9am.
Dennis is a 33-year-old, morbidly obese father of two, whose wife had walked out on him and his girls more than a year ago. He had recently been diagnosed with diabetes, which did not alter his shocking eating habits very much. Although we made every effort to keep the family together, he had done little to ensure the well-being of his daughters and seldom left his bed. The girls were now in foster care; something for which he blamed me and my department and he was always extremely rude and unpleasant when I called. This morning was no different. He was demanding visitation with his children and threatening physical harm to himself if we did not comply. He then began to sob uncontrollably and to beg me for help. Two hours later I had him calmed down enough to discuss all of his options for regaining custody of his girls and had arranged appointments with a dietician and other appropriate professionals, but I was now running horribly behind schedule.
Luckily, I am not married. Colleagues with spouses and children have a tough time juggling this job with family life. I spent the rest of my day playing catch up, but failed miserably. Lunch was a hamburger, which was hurriedly wolfed down; subsequently leaving me with a bad case of indigestion. I had 3 medication prompts to attend to, as well as checking on the progress of a twenty-five-year-old, recovering drug addict recently released from rehab and assessing his, formerly chaotic, parental home as a place for him to live. Then it was back to Apple and a welcome cup of tea before getting her dinner and settling her for the night. When all is done, it is 7:15pm.
Social work is for those with stamina, resolve, fortitude and, above all, compassion for others. At times your efforts are met with abuse and at times with gratitude. This is not what drives me though. It is the sense of a day well spent that makes sleep come so easily.