Friday, October 26, 2012

San Francisco Giants in the World Series: So Much Love in the City!

I've already touched on the World Series on Cheap Social Worker (don't forget to get your free tacos), but after last night I felt the need to expand on it on this blog! My apologies to Detroit Tigers fans!

Yesterday, I decided to take a trip to AT&T Park. Being the cheap social worker that I am, I didn't have $500 to spare for World Series tickets. I also didn't wake up early enough to camp out for a spot at the right field keyhole. Instead, I figured I would walk around, get a shirt, get some food, take in the sights, and find a TV to watch the game. Boy, was it an experience!

Outside the park was a party in itself. Mobs of people were congregated behind makeshift sportscaster sets in an attempt to get on TV. Radio stations were handing out free signs. Various companies were handing out free lanyards, black and orange beads, and coupons. Artists and other vendors were milling around trying to sell Giants gear.

The crowds thinned out a little by game time, but you didn't have to be inside the park it take in the World Series experience. Following the National Anthem, four fighter planes flew directly over my head. While I wasn't able to get into the right field keyhole, I got to see some of the action from the gates leading into it. The vacated sportscaster sets all had televisions tuned into the game, with crowds of people watching and cheering on the Giants. The only issue was that the broadcast was roughly 15 seconds delayed from what was happening inside the stadium, so every time a roar erupted everyone outside would pull out their phones or run to the nearest television.

The magic didn't end with the game. As I was walking home with my Giants shirt and hat, I was stopped my numerous people from all walks of life asking about the score. It was nice giving people something to smile about for a change.

Professional sports tends to get a bad rap these days. However, no one can argue value of sports in uniting a community. I've lost track of the number of strangers I've high-fived these past few days. The shared euphoria that comes with watching your city's team succeed definitely transcends political, cultural, and linguistic differences. I know it's temporary and will screech to a halt if things don't go well for Giants.  Let's not forget that elections are in less than two weeks, which will likely bring about divisiveness all over again.  Hence, I'm enjoying this sense of community and love while it lasts!

Here are a few pictures from my day in San Francisco.  GO GIANTS!!!

San Francisco Giants World Series 2012San Francisco Giants World Series 2012
McCovey Cove San Francisco

AT&T Park San Francisco

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy National Case Management Week!

October 14-20 marks National Case Management Week, acknowledging the efforts of case managers working in the healthcare setting. Case managers provide a multitude of services, including resource management, clinical assessment/review, discharge planning, counseling, and patient advocacy. These individuals include physicians, nurses, social workers, and other allied fields.

 This year's slogan for National Case Management Week is "Patient-Oriented, Outcome-Driven". As hospitals face changing laws and increasingly complex patients, case managers are becoming more important in ensuring that individuals and families receive high quality yet cost-effective services.

The case managers I work with are some of the most dedicated people I know. These hardworking individuals can be found behind the scenes working long hours with high case loads to ensure that patients receive the care they need. Case management is indeed a thankless job that is not always acknowledged or seen by those on the floors.

This week, please don't forget to thank your friendly case managers for the integral services they provide to patients, families, and hospital staff on a daily basis!
case management week 2012

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Return to Blogging

Wow, almost four months have passed since my last post!  Seems like so much time has passed that even Blogger has changed its interface...  I've definitely been doing a bad job at blogging.  Between work, sitting in traffic several hours a day, trying to exercise, and trying to relax after a long day, I really don't have time for much.

I've been thinking about the format of my blogs and what to do with them.  Since I don't blog frequently enough, one option is to recombine them into a single blog again.  I suppose I could also keep them separate and find a way to connect them into a bigger site at some point.  My blogs will always be works in progress, so expect changes in the future!

Quick life update: Still working the same jobs, living at home, and not having much luck with the Bay Area housing market.  Seriously, who wants to pay $1000/month to live in a room in a house?  Doesn't help than my parents expect me to live at home until I either get married or buy a house. Given my home situation, I wonder if I would have a better life if I did go to medical/law/engineering school.  Then I realize that my doctor friends have debt in the six figure range (and make less than expected after malpractice insurance/taxes/overhead), my lawyer friends are mostly unemployed and in six figure debt , and my engineering friends only make slightly more than I do.  I suppose it's sad times for everyone right now.

The positive thing about all of this is having extra money to do a little traveling.  It's quite addicting and a motivating factor in finding a career that lets me travel all over the place.  I'll talk about my trips at some point.

Well, that's all for now.  I'll also be updating Cheap Social Worker, so please feel free to check that out too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Comfort Food: Pancakes!

Just wanted to share a pancake recipe I found on social work blog  Looks tasty and easy to make.  The ingredients are also things I happen to keep around my house (minus the berries).  Definitely a comforting thing to eat when you want to have a slow, relaxing morning.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Need More Self-Care

It's ironic that I wrote a post on self-care since I've been working so much lately! With my continued long commute and 5-6 day work weeks, work really took a toll on me these past few months. Things I experienced include:

Poor eating habits: I certainly engaged in lots of emotional eating this past month, mostly chocolate.

Increased acne: Probably from stress and lack of sleep.

Increased irritability and poor mood: Likely from lack of sleep and exhaustion from work.

Increased sleepiness: I've actually had to pull over and nap in my car several times during my afternoon commute. Not good!

Lack of productivity: This is demonstrated by things like my messy room and lack of blog updates!

This month, I'm definitely going to take a few days from work and perhaps take a trip somewhere. Self-care is something that should not be neglected by social workers. I know that I was not giving my best during these past few weeks. Hopefully after some recharging I'll come back refreshed and do better!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Women’s Pay More Equal to Men in Social Work | Social Workers Speak

This morning, I found this promising article that reported that women "only" make 2% less than men in the field of social work. While initially encouraging, I was reminded of some articles I've read in the past that stated otherwise.

After some searching, I found an old NASW press release and Social Workers Speak article that criticized the fact that Payscale only collected data from bachelors of social work majors. They referred readers to the National Association of Social Workers Compensation and Benefits Study, which provided a more accurate picture of social worker salaries since it included data from masters of social work graduates.

Unfortunately, this NASW study shows that the median salary of female social workers is $11,000 lower than male social workers ($53,000 and $64,000, respectively). This difference is significantly higher than 2%. One can only speculate why the gender pay disparity increases so much between bachelors and masters graduates. However, we do know that much work still needs to be done within the profession to reduce and ultimately eliminate this inequality.

Women’s Pay More Equal to Men in Social Work | Social Workers Speak

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Becoming a Counselor: Addiction counseling

Here is an excellent post from Becoming a Counselor that talks about addiction. My favorite parts of this post are the pictures, which would make great educational handouts during individual or group counseling sessions. Definitely worth the read, especially for people like me who don't do much drug counseling.

Becoming a Counselor: Addiction counseling: Quite some time ago after attending a few weekend courses related to addiction I became interested in working with this population of peopl...

Going Mobile

I've created mobile versions of my blogs for fellow social workers with smartphones. Hopefully they're much easier to view than the old non-mobile format! Check them out using your cell phone:

Cheap Social Worker
Cheap Social Worker Adventures


Sunday, February 12, 2012

About Social Services at a Hospital

about social services
Medical social work is an expansive field, encompassing areas such as hospice, home health, skilled nursing, and acute hospitals. After a few scary moments in home health, I've decided to stay in the acute setting until I experience complete medical social worker burnout.

Though considered a specific area of practice, hospital social work is actually relatively broad. Social services departments vary in function from hospital to hospital, with individual social workers performing correspondingly diverse roles. I've found that certain tasks I perform at one hospital might be performed by a completely different profession at another, or just omitted entirely.

When asked what I do at work, I often have a hard time explaining due to the variety of tasks I perform every day. However, after some thought, I've manage to divide my roles into five categories. These categories are not mutually exclusive, and some hospitals may not even have social workers performing tasks in all of them.

The psychosocial assessment is fairly universal not only in medical social work, but the social work field as a whole. Obtaining information on someone's health, mental status, social environment, and living situation prior to admission helps to provide a more holistic picture of a patient, instead of simply focusing on the admitting diagnosis. From here, social workers can determine if patients have needs for discharge planning, community resources, and/or end-of-life support.

Discharge Planning
The purpose of discharge planning is to ensure patients leave the hospital safely, so as to reduce the probability of readmission. Discharge planning is the role that most often overlaps with that of RN case managers and discharge planners. It is also one of the more time-consuming ones due to the paperwork required and the importance placed on it by the hospital administration, which is keenly interested in keeping costs down. Discharge planning is the role many social workers consider the most frustrating, as they feel that they didn't pursue masters degrees to perform "secretary work".

Discharge planning tasks include the following:
-Arranging skilled nursing placement for patients
-Arranging home health services for patients
-Ordering durable medical equipment for patients
-Arranging transportation to a skilled nursing facility or home
-Arranging follow-up appointments with medical doctors
-Copying/faxing patient charts to complete the aforementioned tasks
-Pulling strings, performing magic tricks, and making miracles happen so that a patient discharges safely and in a timely manner

Social services give emotional support to patients and their families during hospitalization. Situations social workers may face include the following:
-Helping patients adjust to new illnesses/diagnoses
-Helping patients cope with chronic illnesses
-Supporting patients who are dealing with mental illness
-Counseling patients with substance addictions
-Comforting patients and family members in crisis situations

Providing Community Resources
Patients often do not know what community services are available to help them. This is especially the case for new parents and the elderly. Hospital social workers are well-versed in local community agencies and can provide information on the following:
-Applying for government assistance (Medicare, Medicaid, SSI, etc.)
-Low cost medical clinics
-Discounted prescription medication
-Caregiver assistance
-Board and care/assisted living placement services
-Resources for new parents
-Community support programs for seniors
-Food banks
-Homeless shelters
-Support groups for cancer/substance use/grief/etc.

In some cases, social workers may also refer patients to the following agencies:
-Child protective services
-Adult protective services
-Public guardian (for conservatorships)
-The police

Addressing End-of-Life Issues
End-of-life is a sensitive topic that most medical professionals - including doctors - have difficulty discussing with patients. As a result, social workers are often called on to do the following:
-Participate in hospice/palliative care team consultations
-Arrange hospice care
-Educate patients on advanced healthcare directives

Hopefully this post provides a decent breakdown about social services in a hospital setting. While social workers at different hospitals may vary in function, their purpose in providing compassionate psychosocial assistance to patients remains universal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Proposition 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

Great news coming from California today! A U.S. appeals court ruled 2-1 against Proposition 8, a ballot initiative banning same-sex marriage in California. While the ban will still be in effect until the Supreme Court rules on the case, this is certainly a step in the positive direction.

To quote Judge Stephen Reinhardt, "Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples."

I come from a Catholic family, with a number of family members who don't believe in same-sex marriage. Most of them voted yes on Proposition 8. Arguments I've heard from my family members against same-sex marriage include them not liking gays and lesbians personally, questions about how same-sex couples can biologically give birth and raise families without "mothers" or "fathers", homosexuality being against Catholic teaching, and not wanting sex-sex couples to get married in a Catholic church. As a social worker, I know that I am supposed to respect these perspectives, as most of them are ingrained through culture and upbringings in a country that doesn't respect diversity as much as the United States. Similarly, I have family members who only believe I should date within my religion and race, and spurn any argument made otherwise.

Trying to be the understanding one can be frustrating, as these arguments against sex-sex couples are not reasons to deprive an entire group of legal rights. However, cultural beliefs are extremely powerful and hard to change. I know the best I can do for now is to continue to be understanding and try to educate.

Change is slow, but this ruling in California gives me hope that the oppression of LGBTs will end someday. I can only imagine what it's like being in their shoes right now. Thank you, US. appeals court!

Salaried vs. Hourly: Which is better?

Cross-posted to Cheap Social Worker

Monday, February 6, 2012

Social Work Career Development: Art Therapy and Social Work

I ran across this post while perusing Social Work Blogs (and putting off sleep in the process). I think it provides some great ideas for developing rapport with young individuals. Unfortunately, since I work in a medical setting doing discharge planning, I often don't have the time to develop strong rapport with my patients. However, if I ever see children in the future, the techniques described in this blog post are definitely worth a shot.

Social Work Career Development: Art Therapy and Social Work: Have you ever wondered how to incorporate art therapy in a session with a client?  To make the most of my Unplanned Detour , I'm taking...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Non-Family Support Systems

"Social work is clerical, while nursing is clinical."

"Nurses have to give medication, set up IV, clean bodily waste, spend the whole day being waitress to a patient, and deal with difficult family on top of that. We can do the job physical therapy, pharmacy, phlebotomy, respiratory therapy, and social work. This is why nursing pays more than social work, even with your masters degree. Your job is easier than ours."

These two quotes came from my mom while we were have a discussion on why nurse case managers make more than social workers when they do the same discharge planning duties (though my mom missed the fact that I was referring to nurse case managers, not floor nurses). My mom views the different medical professions as part of a hierarchy, with doctors at the top, nurses one step below, and everyone else beneath the nurses. According to my mom, salaries should also be based on this same hierarchy.

When it comes to nurse and social worker salaries, I doubt I'll ever convince my mom that nurses and social workers should earn comparable wages. In fact, I'm almost inclined to agree with my mom that nurses deserve higher wages for their vast medical knowledge (which I lack) and physically/emotionally taxing and gross working conditions. I for one would not want to clean the commode of a c-difficile positive patient.

However, it pains me to have my mom continue to look down on me because I have an "easier job" than hers. In the past, I thought about leaving medical social work because of the burnout caused from having to deal with my mom's opinions. Switching to another sector of social work is still an option, but I currently enjoy the flexibility, excitement, and higher-than-average wages offered by working in a hospital setting. Moving is also another option once I find the right place at the right price.

In the meantime, I continue to live a home, which does have its benefits. I have saved a lot, and my parents don't seem to mind having me around (since their culture doesn't believe in kids moving out until marriage). I think the worst part about the whole thing is the lack of family support I get when it comes to my job, which can be extremely difficult given the importance of support systems in preventing social work burnout. Between my family telling me that I'm a failure for not being a doctor/lawyer/engineer, that social workers are "worthless", and/or that social work is "easy", I've learned that I can't rely on any family members for support.

How have I managed without family support? It certainly hasn't been easy. However, upon some self-reflection, I realize that I've always had a knack for finding support systems such as friends, acquaintances, online forums, etc. Here's a list of places I've found the most comfort in lieu of my family:

-My boyfriend: I'm lucky enough to have a significant other that tries to comfort me as I ramble incessantly about random happenings at work. While he is extremely supportive, I've been working on toning down the ranting and focusing on happy things when I see him. Talking about stressful work situations after a stressful work week probably gets old, and certainly isn't the best way to spend a date night.

-My co-workers: I've been lucky to have extremely supportive co-workers (both nurse case managers and social workers). The best part is that we can relate to the stressful situations associated with discharge planning. It's great to decompress with them, especially after a difficult discharge.

-Social work friends: Similarly, my social work friends and I can relate one another pretty easily. When we get together for dinner, we often spend the evening talking about our respective jobs and challenging situations that arise. However, one problem is that we typically end up talking solely about social work related problems. On more than one occasion, I've gone home thinking that all my friends are underpaid and hate their jobs. Additionally, non-social work friends who are present end up feeling confused and left out.

-Non-social work friends: Non-social work friends are great to hang out with, especially on days when I want nothing to do with social work. When it comes to talking about my job, though, they tend not to understand what I do.

-Social Media: Writing on blogs (such as this one), facebook, twitter, etc. can be cathartic. When my personal circles aren't there I know that there is someone that can relate to me online! However, I'm careful about what I post on social media (especially facebook), since that catharsis can turn into conflict if the wrong person reads it! Fortunately, my mom can barely check her e-mail. I should be okay... for now.

Who do you rely on for support? How do you deal with people who don't support what you do? I'd like to hear your opinions!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I finally created a facebook page! I figured it would be another way to keep people updated on my posts and other news. Please add me here: Cheap Social Worker

(not so) Cheap Social Worker's Guide to Preventing Social Work Burnout

Like many of you, I have days when I come home exhausted, frustrated, and jaded. I wonder why I'm in this field and question whether my work makes a difference. Sometimes, I go as far googling alternate jobs I could do with my MSW. This is when I know it's time for some self-care.

As members of a profession notorious for burnout, we social workers have to be especially conscious of our need for rest and rejuvenation. While people in other fields might find the term funny, "self-care" is essential to keep ourselves physically and emotionally well. That way, we can provide the best care possible to the populations we serve.

Working in a profession that also has a reputation for being lower paying, many of us lack the funds for a fancy vacation or spa treatment. However, this is not an excuse to neglect our self-care regimen. Here are some ideas for caring for yourself while saving a few dollars:

Cheap Tip #1: Go for a walk/jog. Find a scenic area or park and get a little bit of exercise. The release of endorphins will help relieve some work related stress!

Cheap Tip #2: Movie night at home. Grab a movie from Redbox, pop some microwavable popcorn, and have a relaxing night at home! Invite some friends over for more food and fun.

Cheap Tip #3: Treat yourself at a discount. Check out deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. There you'll find discounts on getaways, shopping, spas, and restaurants. Pamper yourself! You deserve it!

Cheap Tip #4: Happy Hour. Most restaurants offer discounted appetizers and drinks during the afternoon hours. Grab some friends or co-workers and wind down after a long work day!

Cheap Tip #5: Take a bubble bath. Turn on some relaxing music, light some candles, and enjoy a soothing soak in the tub. Personally, I like the Mr. Bubble bubble bath from my childhood.

Cheap Tip #6: Sleep early. I know this sounds elementary, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sleep. If you've had a particularly stressful day, try going to bed a earlier than usual. You'll feel rested and refreshed in the morning.

Cheap Tip #7: Plan a weekend staycation. I am fortunate enough to live near San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and the Napa Valley. Find out what attractions are near your area and plan a weekend trip there. You might discover a new favorite hangout during your adventure!

The next time you feel overwhelmed from work, try one of the tips on this list!

What are you favorite ways to relax when you're feeling some social work burnout? I'm always looking for new self-care ideas myself!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fox's "Touch": A Social Worker's Review

I just finished watching "Touch" and wanted to share my take. Please excuse this hastily written entry!

I've heard about "Touch", Fox's latest sci-fi series featuring a social worker, for months now. According to Social Workers Speak, social workers have worked with the show's producers and actress playing the social worker to ensure an accurate portrayal of the profession. While I wasn't planning to watch this show, reading about it piqued my interest enough to watch the pilot episode. Going into it, I had my doubts about how the social worker would be portrayed. Given the fact that the social worker is your stereotypical child welfare one, I expected the worst.

Honestly, I was surprised. While a quick twitter search seemed to show a number of negative comments about social worker Clea Hopkins, I didn't think the way she carried herself was that bad. Given the information in her file about Jake and his father Mark(and the fact that she lacked the perspective of us omniscient TV viewers), she acted in a manner similar to how I would have if I was in that situation.

What I really enjoyed about this social worker was her characterization as pragmatic, intelligent, and compassionate. While there were some moments I thought she was a little too harsh (as she herself admitted), authoritative, and by the book, Clea seemed to show genuine concern for both Jake and Mark. While she ultimately had to place Jake in a (strangely empty) board and care home, it seemed as if she wanted to see father and son reunited eventually. I could definitely sense the empowerment approach being employed by her, especially as she explained to Mark that his situation was not his fault and that he was a good man. In the upcoming episodes, I'll have to see if I can pick up on more social work theories and modalities of practice.

Nitpicks I have regarding the pilot include the following: First, I was surprised to see the child taken away so easily. Given the lack of resources and foster parents in my state, children are only taken away when they are in immediate danger. The fact that Jake ended up on the radio tower so many times seems more the fault of whoever was babysitting him than the father (who was at work when Jake climbed up there).

Second, did anyone else notice the emptiness of the "board and care" home? Given the cuts to social service programs across the nation, I half-expected the place to be overflowing with children.

Third, I was quite surprised at the amount of time Clea was able to dedicate to Jake's case. At one point, she even left Jake to go on a wild goose chase with his father. I'm pretty sure most child protective social workers lack the time to do something remotely close to that due to high caseloads.

Well, that's my brief take on "Touch". I will probably watch future episodes to see how they proceed with the plot and the characterization of Clea Hopkins.

Did anyone else happen to catch the episode? What are your thoughts on how the social worker was portrayed?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Once Upon A Time" Bashes Social Work Profession

Normally, I enjoy watching "Once Upon A Time". It's a (somewhat) family friendly show and a creative take on the fairy tale characters I saw in Disney films as a child. For those unfamiliar with the show, here's a one sentence summary: "Once Upon A Time" is the story of what happens when the evil witch from Snow White sends fairy tale characters into our world with no recollection of their previous lives. While I don't normally watch much TV, the story was entertaining enough to keep me coming back each week. Also, unlike medical dramas, I figured I could watch it without cringing at certain professions being portrayed inaccurately... until tonight.

Each episode of "Once Upon A Time" seems to feature a different fairy tale characters, and tonight it was Hansel and Gretel. In short, the protagonist of the story (who spent 16 years in the foster system), Emma Swan, discovers that Hansel and Gretel have no parents. To "save" them from the foster system, Emma finds their father and magically convinces him to take his kids back. If things were that simple, social workers would have much easier and less stressful jobs.

There were two things that especially irked me about this episode. The first was protagonist Emma Swan's rant against the foster system. She basically tells Snow White/Mary Margaret that based on her experience in the foster system, she knows that social services will not help and that children will bounce around unwanted from home to home. While I can't remember the exact quote (or access a copy of the episode/script at this time), I couldn't help but think that Emma's poorly scripted and over simplistic statement mirrored the stereotypes associated with child protective social workers.

The second thing that bothered me was the fact that the wicked witch ended up calling social services. If social workers weren't associated with evil before, then they are now - by one of Sunday's top rated shows, no less. The only redeeming part of this episode was that the cannibal trying to eat Hansel and Gretel ended up not being a social worker!

I've already written to Social Workers Speak about this matter. I understand that there are issues with the foster system and child protective services. However, I do not think that is an excuse to allow the media to continue getting away with bashing our profession. If anything, tonight's episode only demonstrates that the general public (and Hollywood) has little knowledge of what social workers actually do. Social Work Month is coming up, so maybe we as social workers can use the occasion to educate people and work towards improving our image!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hospital Social Workers Receive Positive Media Attention!

While reading Social Worker Speak, I ran across an article that recognized social workers at a Utah hospital for assisting the families of police officers victimized by a shooting. In addition to praising these individuals, this article then goes on to emphasize the importance of hospital social work in providing patients and family members with psychosocial support in what can be a chaotic and overwhelming medical environment. It was my first time seeing hospital social workers discussed in the media, and I'm glad that it was in a positive light!

Part of the reason I can no longer watch medical dramas is due to the fact that they do not accurately portray a hospital setting. Oftentimes, these shows depict doctors taking on the roles of nurse, social worker, physical therapist, pharmacist, nutritionist, occupational therapist, respiratory therapist, medical technician, CNA, etc. What I would love to see is a medical drama that portrays the lives of people in these aforementioned non-MD fields. They could call it "Allied Health". It would be spectacular.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolutions

Hello, and many apologies for the lack of updates. Between work, family obligations, travels abroad, and the holidays I haven't had much time to work on this blog. Now that things have settled down a bit I hope I can start posting regularly again!

Since it is a new year, I figured it would be appropriate to post my list of 2012 new year's resolutions:

1) Move out of my parents' house
2) Update my blogs at least once a week
3) Go to the gym at least twice a week

I think I'll start with those for now. Better to have a small list of attainable goals than a long list of resolutions I'll probably break. Wish me luck!

2012 New Year's Resolutions

Hello, and many apologies for the lack of updates. Between work, family obligations, travels abroad, and the holidays I haven't had much time to work on this blog. Now that things have settled down a bit I hope I can start posting regularly again!

Since it is a new year, I figured it would be appropriate to post my list of 2012 new year's resolutions:

1) Move out of my parents' house
2) Update my blogs at least once a week
3) Go to the gym at least twice a week

I think I'll start with those for now. Better to have a small list of attainable goals than a long list of resolutions I'll probably break. Wish me luck!