Ok, today’s post is for all the veteran social workers out there. I realized today that I am one of these. WHAT? When the F did that happen? That’s pretty much what I asked myself today.
Last week was my ninth year in social work/child protection. I know, many people would say “you’re not a veteran until you hit year 20”. Right. In most professions. But in social work, making it past five years is an accomplishment. When I started working at my agency, I of course thought I knew everything. I was young, innovative, and had TONS of new ideas that I learned in college and my eight weeks of training for the job. Boy was I wrong. My first three month probationary review basically said these three things.
1. Be patient, child welfare takes FOREVER and you are jumping the gun.
2. Stop being so damn cocky and ask your co-workers for help.
3. Stop being a snooty nose know it all.
Seriously, I’m pretty sure that’s what it said. If you ask my supervisor at the time, she may not have worded my review that way, but that’s what she meant.
One of my colleagues who had worked in the field 10 years at that point (which is now like 19 years total for her, WHAT?) told me that I wouldn’t really know what the heck I was doing until about year two. And at that point, I’d probably cry a lot and want to quit. Guess what, she was absolutely right.
Now, after nine years, I have seen myself come through the doors of my agency over and over. And sometimes worse versions of myself. (I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean that as a compliment).
I love new young workers who have fire and spark. But I also want to punch them in the face. I would like to punch my old self in the face as well. (Hell sometimes I listen to something I say and feel the same even now!)
I find myself sitting in my office counseling the new workers as much as my clients. And that’s ok but I thought to myself, when did this become me?
I listen at the copier, and the coffee maker. Meetings and encounters in the hall. I hear these things:
“Oh my gosh, I will never get caught up on my notes! I have training three days this week and two days next week.” (Mind you their case load is maximum of 6 while I have 18 cases hovering at any given moment. I laugh to myself.
One new worker giving advice to another new worker in a very assertive manner but none of what they say is accurate. I don’t correct right then, I just giggle. Then hours later they’re in my office asking questions about what they just told the other worker. LOL right?
“Every time I pick up the phone, I know I have more dictation to do”. Hello, welcome to social work! If you don’t document it, it didn’t happen.
“I can’t keep the names of all my clients straight. I keep mixing up my cases. What am I going to do when I get more? Oh my gosh I can’t believe I’m getting another case”. Hello!? Did you think you get assigned six cases and that’s it for your career?
“Oh no thanks, I’m just going to eat a salad for lunch” UGH……wait until you have a full caseload and you’re lucky to shove cold McDonald’s fries down your throat while driving to the next home visit and dictating your notes into a cell phone voice recognition app, so you don’t forget the day and time you completed a visit.
“I can’t take that case, the mother is my sister’s ex boyfriends cousins brother’s wife”. WHAT? Hello, I grew up with half the people on my case load. When you live in a small town, you’re gonna have clients you know. It’s weird, but it’s the profession.
“I just think she’s being a bratty teenager and not getting her way, who cares that she’s threatened suicide 17 times this past year. She hasn’t done it yet, what could really be that bad in her life?” Really? Try being bounced around to six homes in a year and wonder where you go next. Please get some empathy. (Oh wait, I think at one point I said that about 8 years ago. And I heard it again recently. Man I was a jerk 8 years ago)
The best and final line……”I’ll only be here a year or two, I’m going back to school and moving up in my career”. Well honey let me tell you. Good for you if you do, but one of two things usually happens. One, you’re too darn tired to finish school after all the work we do during the day, so you end up sleeping, eating and drinking during the time you should be studying. Or two, you fall madly in love with this insane career, and 9 years later and 60 pounds more, you find yourself laughing at new caseworkers, helping them learn, and blogging about all the crazy stuff you encounter during the day. (Now in defense, many of my colleagues HAVE furthered their education and GOD bless them. But, they still end up staying because well, read the latter part of that paragraph 🙂
Yes, I’ve witnessed a TON of turnover during my time as a social worker. LOTS of turnover. But most didn’t stay long enough to really get settled in. The ones who stay a couple years, are much like me, and we constantly “look for other jobs” and contemplate quitting. I actually put in my resignation a few years ago and then took it back! We stay, and we continue learning, growing and doing what we love (and hate) and making a difference in other’s lives.
So, for today, I realize I’m the “old” worker or “veteran” worker now. And that’s ok. I’ve worked hard to get there, and the best part is so many things change so often in this career. So it’s a constant challenge, I’m always learning, and growing.
Happy Hump Day Friends! ~Social Work Superhero
**** Thank you to the Social Work Tutor for making such amazing memes. Credit to him for his humor! Check out his blog at https://socialworktutor.com. If you want to see more of his memes follow his Facebook page as well!!! ****