Celebrating National Social Work Month

By: Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

This year the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) celebrates its 60th anniversary. Congratulations to NASW and the more than 600,000 professional social workers in the United States who make a difference in the daily lives of millions of people.

Social workers are unique, because they often play a variety of professional roles. You will find social workers in a variety of settings such as home care and hospice agencies, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, schools, child and adult social service agencies, community organizations, churches, and advocacy organizations.

A social worker can be a case manager who locates services for clients and assists with accessing these services. They can also be a liaison that makes referrals on behalf of the family or individual to needed resources. A social worker is often an advocate working to obtain needed resources for those who are unable to speak for themselves. A social worker can be a facilitator of a caregiver or a bereavement support group. They can gather groups of people in the community for purposes of community development. A social worker can be an educator, teaching people about resources and how to develop particular skills such as budgeting, searching for a job, effective communication or understanding a medical diagnosis.

I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with some amazing social workers at Oxford HealthCare.

Here is what some of them had to say when asked why they became a social worker:

“I became a social worker because it was an opportunity to truly make a difference in people’s lives. Although social work certainly isn’t a prestigious or “glamorous” job and often is a “thankless” one, it still offers the opportunity to feel intrinsically fulfilled in the sense that I know I had an opportunity to make an impact and improve the quality of life for my clients. It really is a field that I pursued because I viewed it as more of a “calling” rather than a “job”. One of the reasons that I love working in hospice as a social worker is that we meet people at such an intimate time in their lives. They often connect with us, allow us to help and appreciate the part we play in their lives. It is a powerful experience all around. One of the other reasons I enjoy working in this field is the opportunity to work with other disciplines, which is such a privilege. There are extraordinary people called to this field, and their understanding of other aspects of our patients enriches my knowledge, experience and appreciation of each patient. Lastly, I am thankful that social work embraces the idea of meeting and accepting people in whatever circumstance in life that they may happen to be. It is always very humbling to realize that I don’t have people or situations figured out like I sometimes think I do. Our patients always surprise me, and I appreciate the opportunities I have to learn from them about life and the perseverance of the human spirit! I also realize that God never gives up on anyone, and it encourages me to do the same each day.” – Renee’ Jenkins, MSW, Oxford Bereavement Coordinator

“I always wanted to be in a helping profession. Social work looks at the whole person and his or her environment, which is important to me. My favorite part of social work is finding a way to connect with a patient regardless of our differences, listening to stories and learning new ideas. Nothing is better than watching a person realize they can make a change for the better when they had lost hope.” –Diana Gronniger, MSW, Oxford Home Health

“I was drawn to helping people on a more professional level based on some personal experiences I had that were life changing. Following a very serious car crash and a lengthy stay in the hospital, I knew the process could be, and should be, better than what I experienced. I set out to make that difference. I like to think that I have been able to help a lot of people through some very difficult times medically, financially and socially because I became a social worker. It is very rewarding when you know you have helped someone through a life altering experience, and they come out on the other side of that experience a much stronger person.”-Deb Whitehead, BSW, Oxford Executive Director Care Coordination

“It is all I ever wanted to do, and I always wanted to work with seniors. As a little girl, I helped care for my grandfather (who was an invalid with Parkinson’s) when the other grandchildren were hesitant around him. So, I guess it came naturally to me. The rewarding part for me is to know that I can help people see what their options are so they can make informed decisions, and offer support and a sounding board for someone who just needs to talk it out.”-Carol Combs, MSW, Oxford Memory Care Program Coordinator

“I became a social worker because I like working with people; and after almost thirty two years, I feel I am pretty good at it. I like helping people in need by providing information and a willingness to listen to their circumstances and offer understanding and assistance. Social work is very rewarding and offers a lot of variety in job possibilities and opportunities to help others. I have never regretted choosing this career.”-Kay Myers, BSW Oxford Care Coordinator