Early in my Social Work career, I had a close friend who was a fellow Social Worker. Incase you didn’t know it, us Social Workers tend to stick together. There are not too many that can understand our rude and crude senses of humor; therefore, it takes one to know one. Get it? But back to the topic. Over lunch one day, we were joking and trying to blow off steam from a particularly demanding case load and I remember chuckling through this comment, “When I grow up, I want to have the ability to tell someone to go straight to hell in such a manner that they actually look forward to the trip”. We laughed at that for months to come. And 10+ years later, I still think of it with a fond smile as well as of that dear friend who has since gone on to be with the Lord.
Within my 18 year career as a Social Worker, I have pretty much perfected the ability to discuss topics with families and patients in such a manner that they understand that my heart has their best interest in mind even when I speak words they do not want to hear. No, your precious Mom will most likely not make it through the weekend. Yes, your courageous father who fought in WWII must now have 24 hour caregivers to help with toileting and making certain his meds are given appropriately. Yes, I will be making a DHR report today because I am concerned that you are neglecting the needs of your Uncle who has entrusted you with his care. Yes, my nurse is going to have to begin counting out your narcotics upon each visit as we are concerned that meds are being taken inappropriately. Yes, you must provide a clean workspace for our nurse to provide wound care in an effective, sanitary manner; no dog feces can be visible in said workspace. Yes, I’d like to discuss funeral arrangements with you today, have you thought of where you’d like to be buried or who you might want to conduct your service. I have literally conducted hundreds of conversations where I’ve addressed these specific issues and countless other topics equally difficult. The topics are ever changing. My goal; however, does not. My goals are for these families to feel my compassion, grasp my stern resolve that the issue must be addressed no matter how uncomfortable it must feel and for them to finally feel a compelling pull toward finding a resolution or understanding that meets the needs of all that are involved.
While driving in to work this morning, I was mulling over some of the cases that I would be seeing for the day, preparing my mind for whatever my to-do list put in my path and I had an epiphany while considering a particularly difficult patient. Girl, you finally lived up to your long years ago dream. Now, granted, I don’t find myself telling my patients or families to go straight to hell, though there have been a few that perfectly tried my patience on just the right day and beer and cigarettes were written IN BOLD on my “after 5p” to-do list. But, I have the ability to speak to others in a manner in which I would like to be spoken. I have the ability to convey my thoughts and expertise and experiences and knowledge to these families in a manner in which they can understand so as to make their own decision. I say hard things, but always in the appropriate tone.
So, yes, I confess that there are times when working particularly difficult cases, and wonderful resolutions are implemented, that I may sit back and pat myself on the back briefly. Not long enough to get the “big head” but just long enough to keep up morale. (Ha!) Those are the times when I sort of think to myself, yep girl, you got it.
If my sweet Mama were here to read this, she would definitely have already said, “Watch your mouth young lady”. But then she’d remember where I get my sometimes less than lady-like mouth, and that is my Father who she dearly loved. So, all would have been well…until the next time I spouted something off without thinking.
I’ve enjoyed sharing a cup of coffee with you. I’ll let you know when another fresh pot is ready. ~paula