Going through school and studying to be a social worker, I always thought that I wanted to work with children. Granted, much of society thinks that social workers either work with children (and their families) or the welfare system, but the spectrum of people that we (as social workers) interact with, is much broader.
I work primarily with the older adult population in a hospital setting. This is not easy work. I assist individuals and families in making some of the hardest decisions that they will ever have to make in their lives. I am asked questions and hear remarks like: “Mom can’t take care of herself, but we aren’t able to stay home with her, because we need to continue to work. What do we do?” or “I am not ready to go into a nursing home. I want to go to my own home.” or “Dad always said that he didn’t want to be hooked up to tubes, but I don’t know if I am ready to give up yet.”
We as social workers do not stand alone in the medical profession. It is an interdisciplinary approach, that includes an array of professionals to assist the individual and family, but not only in regards to their medical condition. As a social worker, we work with the individual and family by educating them on their options and supporting and advocating for the plan that will ensure the least restrictive environment for that person, but always focusing on safety and the ability of that individual to make their own decisions if able.
Frankly, all job duties aside, one thing as become clear to me……Listen. Too many times as a society, we get wrapped up in the bottom line, and don’t hear what the older generations are trying to tell us. My job is fast paced, so I know that there are times when I may spend less time listening, and more time trying to get my point across, but I have been humbled by this job. The most rewarding part of my job is when I am able to sit down beside them and listen to their story. Sometimes it may not seem relevant to a discharge plan, but I have learned, it is always relevant.
Regardless of age, people want to be heard. They want to be seen as an individual that have given to this world, not someone that is seen as a burden. Sometimes that time spent listening to their story will be the highlight of their day, and holds more weight then we can even imagine.
Yes, there are tough decisions to be made in life, some of the hardest when it comes to end of life, and education and preparation are essential to my job. However, I have found that learning about a person, and listening to them is the most important job qualification in human life.
I believe that listening is something that we were born to do, taking time to do it, is something that we chose.