Sages is our way of paying tribute to the love and passion social workers have for giving hope to those in despair and helping others find the courage and resolve to make changes they are seeking. Once upon a time everyone was just a beginner as they set out to change the world. Along the way, there were insights and understanding about their profession they would have loved to know when they started out. We asked our alumni if they would share those observations. What can be found on this page are the responses of social workers who once again answered the call to help someone else.
Carole Finnell may be a retired social worker from Indianapolis, but social work is never far from her mind. Sometimes she even dreams about doing social work. She found ways to balance her personal life, being a mother and wife, while dealing with heartbreaking issues involving families and children. What truths did she uncover that allowed her to keep a balance in her life?
There is a saying that not all heroes wear capes. Merlin Outcalt is living proof of that. Born in the 1930s, Merlin grew up with an appreciation of hard work. As a social worker he came to understand the importance of care and concern in relationships and says prepare to be somebody’s hero. Watch the following video to hear Merlin describe an exciting and sometimes frustrating career.
Irene Weinberg spent years working for the Veterans Administration and learned that wanting to “just get along,” isn’t always the best way. As painful as it may be to a client or a co-worker, it’s better to speak up and be honest. In the end, it might not only improve a situation for others, it will make you feel better about yourself. For other tips gleaned from a life of helping others, watch the following video.
Nancy VanKovering, BSN ’67, MSW’94
Nancy attended the weekend MSW program while continuing full-time employment as a hospital social worker. During the course of her career in medical social work/case management/discharge planning, she learned many valuable lessons, some of which are now shared as follows…
As a social worker, it is important to allow clients to have a voice and to not impose personal thoughts/feeling on the person. It is critical to determine what is important to the person and his/her family. Oftentimes, when working with people in very vulnerable/stressful situations, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that they have a life they are desperately trying to reclaim. Avoid the tendency to be the expert. Attempt to meet the person where he/she is, present options for consideration and assist the client to make his/her own decisions. Remember that older persons have STRENGTHS…they got to this age/station in life using lots of “tools”, so their boxes are still useful/necessary to their surviving/thriving! Recurring theme: Provide assistance /tools, for a person to be ULTIMATELY responsible for him/herself.
Keep good records, particularly for crisis situations and health issues. Because it is difficult to think clearly in a crisis situation and time is of the essence, accurate, up to date records provide the immediate resource at hand. Access to your medical information is your right. Obtain copies of labs, x-rays, all pertinent information, as it occurs, and store in readily accessible file folders/binders. It is useful to have at any age but especially helpful as a person ages and has more difficulty recalling information.
Employment is obviously important for income, but also for networking. Be realistic-there is no such thing as being completely “happy” in a job. One can be satisfied/content and still make a “mark in the world”. Remain with a job long enough to become proficient, unless it is totally against your values and principles, in which case, seek something different. Since you take yourself wherever you go, if something is not working, you must make a conscious choice to change. Examine/ assess what you are doing then BE the change rather than WAITING for things to change. Be open and resilient. Keep in mind: your appearance and posture communicate loudly before you say a word. Look the part, dress the part, clothes do make a statement. Consider the audience, attempt to be appropriate for the situation, be courteous/respectful, make eye contact, avoid slang, and be truly present with the person(s) you are working. Remember, we choose how we react and respond to people. Do things wisely…just because we can do something doesn’t mean it is the wise choice/thing to do.
Unwise to travel or socialize alone/one on one with married coworkers.
Advice for Staying Healthy
Make healthy lifestyle choices EARLY. Be responsible for yourself-many of the results of unhealthy habits are irreversible…eat wisely, exercise, live life proactively rather than reactively!