Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I was in a mood

Yesterday, I didn't want to be a social worker. In fact, yesterday, I resented being a social worker.

I suppose that I should feel bad about that, but it actually feels good to say. There are some days, hell there are some weeks, that I just get frustrated with what I do.

You'd think that this wouldn't be the case. Social workers, after all, are angels who bring help to the helpless. This is the BS they fed to us in our Intro to SW class, at least. And yes there is good work that happens (even while I resent the hell out of doing it).

But here's what gets me at these times, what really sticks in my craw: the idea that I am somehow better qualified than the person that I am working at to take care of their problems. Further, the idea that if I am working with this person, then I am responsible for taking care of their problems.

Of course, in some cases this is true. There are some people I work with that are impaired enough to not be able to care for themselves or their concerns. We had a patient once who couldn't read and had no family. I was perfectly happy to go through his mail with him.

But here's where my resentment comes in - this expectation that I can somehow work miracles is unfair. And it pisses me off. I can't make an agency have an appointment when they are telling me they do not have an appointment. I can't make MediCal or MediCare work any faster or smoother than they do (believe me that would be one of my first wishes if I ever get a real magic wand). I can't get people on to the Section 8 housing list (or help them move to the top faster). And I can't help people find the secret cache of affordable housing that should be available to people living on the completely inadequate income that is SSI.

I know that this may seem completely rational to all of you, but I've had doctors/administrators/families/patients look at me with the expectation that I am able to do these things. I've had some of them tell me, usually accusingly when I haven't made them happen, that I should be able to do these things.

S tells me, in these times, that I've provided a great service in being an outlet for their frustration of things that aren't possible, but I get sick of being a scapegoat for a system that does not protect our most vulnerable.

There's an irony in this rant: March is Social Work month (it's also Dietician Month and Kidney Month, so it gets a bit overlooked). But there it is.

I recognize that there are other factors that are colliding in all of this. In the past 2 1/2 weeks, I've had a co-worker die (resulting in having to spend the following weeks I worked in ruining people's days by telling them), my mother has been hospitalized, my vacation plans were muted (not squashed as I am still going to HI), and now my co-worker has had a death in the family and is gone for the week.

I'm under a great deal of stress this month, so much so that I had forgotten how quickly my birthday was approaching...and just realized that I haven't made plans and I don't have a lot of energy to make plans. So when I get approached with the stuff above, with the expectations that I should be able to make the problems of my patients go away, I am also left wondering when someone will make all of mine go away.


Hyde said...

Whether or not it's easy, I completley admire you for putting yourself out there and even trying to help people with the system. It's brave and patient. I prefer to hide out in ivory towers. As for the trip to HI, aren't there tons of relaxing things to do there that won't make you feel exhausted? Like... the beach? sunsets? spas? I bet it will be a great time. I hope the tide of illness and death rolls back soon. And Happy Birthday!! When is it exactly?


spinsterwitch said...

My birthday is April 6.

Aravis said...

There's so much pressure and expectation that goes with the job, and nobody could possibly live up to it all. It's got to be frustrating, and perhaps a little depressing at times.

It is one of the most emotionally difficult careers, imo, and you have my utmost respect for all that you do!