Category Archives: social work

Flexibility Vs. Setting Boundaries in Social Work

For the past month, I’ve been going into work on Saturdays because there is simply no way I can get things done during the regular work week.  Now, I’m not overdoing it; I’m taking Monday’s off to make up for it.   With all the construction and chaos going on in the building, it’s pretty impossible not to succumb to the myriad of distractions that are placed on my path.  Plus, for a couple more weeks, I have to share office space with a two colleagues and its getting juuuuuust a tad too crowded.  It’s hard enough sometimes with my phone ringing non-stop, last-minute admissions, or co-workers bursting into my office handing me the  latest crisis project (“Mrs. Elderkins is out of Depends, can you call her son?”).  But now, I have the added disruption of whatever crisis is taking place in the work day for my two office mates.  So yeah, Saturdays are becoming my most productive days at the office.

While there isn’t much more I can do to gain control over my work day for the time being, I’ve been thinking a lot about establishing better boundaries.   I am a fairly laid back person by nature and there isn’t a great deal that I’m faced with that I can’t handle, but every now and again, I fear my easy-going attitude makes my work life a bit crazier than it needs to be.   I sometimes find it hard to balance my desire to be there for residents, colleagues, and clients and my goals for the projects I want and need to accomplish.   When I first started out as a social worker, I used to think work-day interruptions were the norm.  After all, we’re typically dealing with people who are frail, in need of various types of  assistance and reliant on a system that often appears set up to fail in the first place.  Plus, people, along with their needs, can be unpredictable. How can I possibly schedule human need into my work day?

But now I’m starting to think I have to work a little smarter.

Slowly, over the past several months, I’m learning to be a little greedier with my time.  Just because I’m the only case manager, doesn’t mean that every time someone needs something, it is necessary I drop everything.  Every need is not urgent. Some are more important than others, and I like to think that as my experience in this career grows, I’m getting better at deciphering the needs that don’t have to be addressed ASAP.   Phone calls can go straight to voice mail when I’m in the middle of something else.   Chatty family members who show up at my door at 4:45pm, as I’m shutting down the computer and organizing my desk for the next day, can be politely told that I have to go and that we can meet at a scheduled time later in the week.  The door to my office can be closed for an hour each day so I can catch up on paperwork.

Being a social worker is all about being flexible, no doubt about it.  Things happen that aren’t planned and your whole day can turn around in a matter of five minutes.  Real crisis’s can crop up five minutes before you’re ready to walk out the door. It’s what happens when you’re in the field of working with people.

But without setting a few boundaries and promoting respect for your time,  the most rewarding part of our jobs–helping others–becomes a dreaded chore.

What do you do to set boundaries in your work place?




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Grant Me The Serenity To Accept The Things I Cannot Change

I’m in my second month of my new position as a case manager in an eldercare facility.  There are also many changes taking place within this organization, which makes my new role a little bit harder to learn.  I know that down the road, things will click into place, but for now, it’s an uphill battle as anyone who has ever been involved in a massive organizational overhaul knows that most people DESPISE change, no matter what form it takes.

I must be odd, because I kinda enjoy when things are in a state of flux.  Sure, cultivating a routine and having a sense of security are important on the job, but I seem to thrive in chaos for some strange reason.  My main issue (or gripe?) in all of this is attempting to facilitate cohesiveness in a setting where many of my colleagues and team members seem prone to getting caught up in negativity. It’s easier for some, to adopt a fatalistic attitude when so much is changing around them.  Many of the other disciplines in this facility have been a part of the organization for more than 20 years and I do believe for a few folks, there is almost a secret wish for the new direction being set forth to flounder.

Yet, on the other side of the “doom and gloom” and  nay-saying, there is a lot of great potential that comes with change.   Change is never all good or all bad.  In the middle ground, there tends to be a huge amount of room for growth.  Perhaps that is why the notions of change and chaos appeal to me. I like knowing that when all is said and done, I will have been a part of an evolution of sorts.

For now though, I have to suck it up sometimes.  I try to set a good example, but it does get difficult to avoid getting pulled into some of the negativity.  There is a lot that is unknown in this early stage.  I make mistakes regularly as I attempt to feel my way around and plow through the maelstrom that has become my current work environment.   I do believe that it all will work out in the end and that I will truly hit my stride in this next chapter of my social work career.

I’ll just have to do a lot of drinking between now and then. 😛

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure.  But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it.  Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.  ~Shunryu Suzuki

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Social Work Wonder Woman

I like this idea on Nechakogal’s blog asking readers to describe their social work environment via a cartoon-ish character parody.   Now, I can’t really identify with the three options given in the poll:

  1. Cinderella Social Worker– this is the worker who essentially is caught up in cleaning up after her wicked (and wealthy?) clients.  She pushes paper more than she actually engages the people she works with.  She’s a slave to the grind and buried in her work.  Hopefully, a magical Prince will arrive and save her from her thankless tasks and buy her lots and lots of new shoes.
  2. The Firefighter– this social worker is running around putting out fires all the live long day.  Ok, I can kinda relate to this one.  There certainly are some days where it feels like all I’m doing is deflecting one hit after another and getting close to nothing actually accomplished.  Everything is an urgent matter.
  3. Papa Smurf-– This social worker is community-driven and approaches his or her work with idealistic compassion and seeks to unify rather than divide.  Papa is the social worker I think many of us *want* to emulate, but often get sidetracked because we’re busy being firefighters and thinking about new shoes when we’re buried in our paperwork.  (How’s that for a nice tie-in?) 😀

So, I participated in the poll but naturally, had to choose the “other” option.  When it comes down to it,  none of the above truly embody what it is I do or who I sometimes feel like in my practice.   I definitely can see a little of the firefighter tendency in me as a social worker, but it’s not a consistent feeling.   The cartoon/fictional character I believe best embodies the social worker I am and the environment I exist within is…..

You got it.

I’m Wonder Woman.

I’m not trying to be cocky or silly, but after truly thinking about this (and consulting the google gods for a little Super Hero back-story research), I think Wonder Woman is a near perfect fit to describe my Social Work Persona and the general themes that develop in my work.   Per Wikipedia:

Wonder Woman is an Amazon (based on the Amazons of Greek mythology) and was created by Marston as a “distinctly feminist role model whose mission was to bring the Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.'” Her powers include super-speed, super-stamina, super-agility. She is highly proficient in hand-to-hand combat and in the art of tactical warfare. She also possesses an animal-like cunning and a natural rapport with animals, which has in the past been presented as an actual ability to communicate with the animal kingdom. She uses her Lasso of Truth (which forces those bound by it to tell the truth), a pair of indestructible bracelets, and an invisible airplane.

Ok, so I am no Amazon woman and I don’t wear corsets and thigh high red boots to work.  I also don’t have one of those newfangled invisible airplanes, (however, my salary review is coming up) but, I dig the “feminist role model” and super-speed/super stamina powers.  Hell, I’m a damn speedy and efficient social worker!  I can get a lot accomplished and still be a client advocate.  Those traits definitely represent me on a lot of levels.  And I have this uncanny ability which warrants people (clients and non-clients)  to divulge their life secrets and on occasion, I hear some pretty heavy confessions.  It’s as though I have a symbolic Lasso Of Truth force that emanates from me.  I kid you not.  Also, I have the ability to communicate with my cats.  We talk to each other all the time.

So there it is.  I am Wonder Woman, Social Worker.  Hear me roar!


Filed under advocacy, social work, social work skills, social worker