March is social work appreciation month, and it gives me intentional time to reflect on the impact of being a part of this profession.
I remember when I was in college and was a speech and hearing science major. I was constantly asking when I was going to get to the course about how a person felt if they had a speech impediment or were born with a disability. What I was actually immersed in through that course of study was the physics of audiology and the medical aspects of speech impairments. But I wanted to address the emotional component of the person being helped-not the physical. After almost failing physics in my last year of college, I realized that I was pursuing the wrong degree and applied to graduate schools of social work.
The social work profession is all about the human condition. It provides a foundation of knowledge and understanding as to how individuals, couples, families, and communities function in the midst of life transitions, crises, and change. The profession trains people to look at inequities in systems while looking at one’s own privilege or lack there of and how that might impede or advance the ability to help another person. Some social work students go into the profession wanting to help those who live with a challenge navigate the vast array of resources out there in the world that may help them live a better life. Some students are more interested in macro systems that look at the bigger programs and policies that effect people’s lives, embracing a desire to “fix” the system that is making life challenging for individuals and families.
Either way, social workers are a compassionate group of people who glean a tremendous sense of fulfillment from helping others. The skills that social workers obtain through school and years of practice are truly skills for many aspects of life. These skills, such as listening, effective communication, setting boundaries, making healthy decisions, empathy, respect, and relationship building are all present in the day-to-day work that social workers do, and enhance their own collegial, community, and interpersonal relationships.
Having worked with social workers all my life, I have always felt that going to work was like being with a different, and exhilarating, family of colleagues who shared the hope for a better world for so many in need of help. It has been and continues to be a privilege that has brought tremendous meaning and fulfillment to my life.
The past two years, with the pandemic and now the devastating war in Ukraine, have sadly brought to the forefront the meaning and necessity of this work, as well as the drive to help that lives inside of every social worker.
Mobilization to access vaccinations during COVID, provide basic human needs such as food and clothing, and offer emotional support, kept those that I work with immersed in a constant state of purpose. Now with the tragic war in Ukraine and refugees again coming to the United States, I find myself and my colleagues once more asking the question of what we can do to make refugees’ lives better. We are always reaching, we are always responding, and we are always staying one step ahead, creating innovative and strategic approaches to getting people the help that they need.
Our profession is the profession of life. What an honor to be a part of it.