A Welcome Guest in Lives of Patients and Families
Posted by Nancy Peter, Social Worker
Everyone has heard the words “social work” and “social worker," but do you know what they really mean? When I was growing up, I thought social workers were men and women who wanted to devote their lives working in underprivileged countries helping poor people enrich their lives.
Well, I grew up and learned I wasn’t completely wrong. And after 20 plus years as a social worker, I continue to learn everyday what social work and being a social worker truly mean.
As a hospice social worker I wear many hats. I am a noun, verb, adverb and adjective. I'm a counselor, confidante, advocate, researcher and resource. I'm a cheerleader, motivator, listener, party planner, wedding coordinator and dream maker.
Mainly, I am a humbled and privileged, invited guest into the lives of patients and families who I've been honored to know over the years. Here are a few of them:
- A patient, Marcie, knew she would be gone before her granddaughter, who she had adopted as her own child, turned nine. A princess birthday party was created so Marcie and her granddaughter would have the opportunity to share this event together. Both of their eyes were wide with surprise and delight when Cinderella actually attended the party.
- When gay marriage was legalized, a small, frail woman named Ida confided she had been in a long term relationship with Robin for over 30 years. It was her dream to get married before she died. Ida had hidden the fact she was gay throughout most of her life. But on her wedding day in the CareCenter, she was wheeled down to where her bride was waiting, bouquets in hands and love in their hearts.
- A gentleman was admitted just shy of his 100th birthday and his wife was so hoping he would make it until that day. Well he did, and we had a small birthday party which consisted of a Long John donut (for the one) and two round chocolate donuts (for the zeros), sitting side by side, balloons and a staff of not-so-professional singers, singing Happy Birthday.
- Diane was diagnosed with cancer. She was a much beloved woman in her field, the arts, counseling centers and craft groups. She loved the color purple and as a memory to her, 25 sets of different purple shaded thumbprints were made for her by loved ones.
Social workers are not magicians or miracle workers. We are a group of hard working men and women who have chosen to dedicate our lives to trying to “make something better.”
Every time I walk into a patient’s room my hope is that when I leave, something is better.
So, what I know about social work now is that I cannot rescue anyone, and there is no distinction when I work with someone whether they are “privileged” or “underprivileged.” They are all human beings filled with a mixture of emotions looking to me to make something better.
A smile, tears that needed to be shed, an increased understanding, or a warm, safe, hug that helps someone feel, momentarily, that their world will, one day, be alright again.
Those of us who go into social work probably share the lofty goal of wanting to make the world a better place. In my experience, the patients and families I've worked with have ultimately made my world a better place.
Is it possible I have been privileged enough to receive more in my work than I give? That is the amazing life of a social worker.