Why We Do It: Reflections From 30 Years in Social Work

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Because it is a calling

I do the work I do with Hospice because I feel God has called me to help those who feel totally lost and see another loss on the way. As social workers we work in a varying array of organizations, all with the stresses that cause us to wonder why we actually get up and move on each day. I do it because I feel it is a calling from God on my life. I am privileged to have a team of nurses that deal with the patients and families as I do and we can talk it out at the end of the day, and when we arrive at work the next morning we hear about what happened over night and start again. Yes it is hard, but for me rewarding, knowing I am giving some amount of hope in a hopeless situation.

Charlotte more than 7 years ago

Why I Do It

Because if I don't, who will? I heard a calling as a child and have a servant's heart. I initially helped others because I could not deal with my own pain and be myself. However, I received the help I needed and became a better social worker. I also am compassionate and walk with others in their journey allowing them to find their answers. I help them find a path that is their own.

chris more than 7 years ago

Why We Do It

Because we care. We have learned that we can create change. We give of ourselves because we know we will cause things to happen for the better. Good will happen because we have been educated and trained to help.

Joanne Bowen MSW LCSW more than 8 years ago

It does not feel like work...

...alright, maybe 25% of the time it feels like work. The rest of the time advocating, educating, and problem solving with families with children with mental illness is frustrating but when it works it really works. Sure there are going to be failures but the chance of succes is what keeps me going. I still have 20 more years to catch up with you but I will keep your words in mind as well.

Sean Erreger (stuckonsocialwork.wordpress.com) more than 8 years ago

thank you

I know you will continue to give so much to your clients and find great satisfaction in your work, Sean. Ours is a privileged profession, and we are blessed to be part of it. Thank you so much for writing.

SaraKay Smullens more than 8 years ago

Thank you so much!

I want to thank everyone who has "liked" my article. I am so concerned that BurnOut is taking talented social workers for this kind of work. I would be very appreciative if you would respond to my request to answer questions about burnout in your life for a book I am writing. I am hopeful that the book can be helpful and supportive in addressing this problem. Thank you so much!

SaraKay Smullens more than 9 years ago

Note and Link from the editor

To respond to SaraKay's questionairre for her book on burnout and self care, see: http://www.socialworker.com/blogs/lindas-agenda/help-with-a-new-book-burn-out-self-care-social-work/

SocialWorker.com more than 9 years ago

BurnOut Prevention

I have one year left before I will have my Bachelors Degree in Social Work with my minors in Interfaith and Religious Studies. During my Junior internship my Field Instructor (who is much younger than myself) stressed the need for burn out prevention. I was reminded to take breaks, leave my desk and sit out with everyone else for lunch. I was encouraged to pursue personal interests in my personal life. Before the end of my internship my Field Instructor required me to write a persona care plan. The focus was my strengths, challenges, areas of potential growth, goals and objectives. At first it did not make much sense to me why I was doing this and was simply going through the motions of writing the paper. Although, the more I wrote the more I began to understand the purpose. In the past 20 years of being in the customer service industry I had a hard time separating my professional and personal life. Writing the personal care plan helped me to help myself. I made the connection to parenting. If I as a mother do not take care of my self then I cannot adequately take care of my children. Just as a parent takes care of them self, a social worker also needs to take care of themselves or they are unable to help others. That desire to help others helped me realize I need to take care of myself first. Here is a list of things that I wrote in my personal care plan for my goals and objectives:
Goal #1 learn to balance my personal and professional life
1) leave school, work, and internship on time,
2) leave my house and go hiking on the weekends,
3) go visit friends and family more regularly.
Goal #2 Take better care of myself physically and emotionally so
that I prevent myself from getting sick.
1) eat healthier,
2) start a journal that lists one good things and bad thing that happened for every day of the week
at the end of the week,
3) go for a walk every day.
Goal #3 learn to not be such a perfectionist.
1) let others do some work,
2)don’t criticize my own work,
3) allow myself to leave one mess.

I understand everyone will have different strengths, challenges, areas of potential growth, goals and objectives but writing a personal care plan was probably the most important thing I learned, and I think will help me to avoid getting burned out as a social worker.
Side note:
It has helped me in my personal life to know where to draw the line with friends and family when they need help. Perfect example was after a phone call this morning literally physically took my phone off the hook. Then after an e-mail I decided I'm turning off my computer (anything electronic in my house) I'm leaving my house for the day, I'm going to drive to a friends house and play in their garden for the rest of the day.

Amelia more than 8 years ago


Amelia, I call what you do the healthiest possible "Inner-Self Dialogue." In all of my family education work and my work with clients, I teach this approach to Mindfulness, an essential part of self care. Thank you so much for writing. I have no doubt that our profession is gaining a marvelous, committed new social worker!

SaraKay Smullens more than 8 years ago

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