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!