By: Leticia Vaca
March is National Social Work Month, it is a time to share awareness of the field and highlight the many ways that social workers contribute to the betterment of society.
My fondest memory of being a social worker was my experience interning and working at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California; the social work department was 100% Black, Indigenous, People of Color from the Director to the receptionist at the time that I was there. (side note: this was a major selling point for me since the other hospitals that I attempted to get placement at were not diverse and the interviews for just a internship were cold and off putting). The Social Workers at Highland represented the demographic of the community, a largely residential area of East Oakland, Black, Brown, Native, Immigrant and refugee community.
We celebrated National Social Work Month in a major way! Seriously, we made sure we had activities Monday- Friday, acknowledged the medical providers that exemplified social work values and supported staff social workers, and ended the month with a speaker of our choice. My favorite activities were bowling and the International Salad bar. We all brought different toppings from our culture to share with one another: Indian, Filipino, Fijian, Nicaguaran, Mexican, Southern African American were some of the foods. I totally enjoyed seconds and thirds helping of Pancit and lumpia. Some other services in the hospital would host lunches for us, but largely we coordinated our own celebration. We gave ourselves our flowers!
I’ve worked at other institutions and never had the same social work month experience. I was disappointed that the leaders did not celebrate the contribution of social workers to the patient care experience, so I was not too surprised that the social workers themselves in the hospital did not have much enthusiasm about the month.
I’m often asked “what do you do?”. According to the National Social Worker Association, “Social workers are essential to community well-being. As practitioners, social workers are trained to help people address personal and systemic barriers to optimal living. They are employed to effect positive change with individuals, families, groups and entire communities.”
I am a medical social worker.
Medical social workers help people navigate and address issues related to mental health, aging, hospital navigation and health care decision-making, as well as bigger public health challenges in the community.
Social Work Month in March is a time to celebrate the great profession of social work.
During Social Work Month it is encouraged to take time to learn more about the many positive contributions of the profession. But it’s the people for me!
I’d like to celebrate the Social Workers and others in the field of social services that have supported me on my journey:
I landed in the field of social worker after researching all the other related fields, Social Work is for me.
It is an honor and privilege to support folks in a time of need. I have also been a recipient of support from others.. and boy does it feel good! It is important for me to give praise to those that have supported me and continue to participate in the betterment of others.
I am celebrating Social Work Month intentionally.
March 12th, I will host a two-hour workshop for therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals: Addressing Racial Trauma Fatigue with Radical Self-Care for BIPOC Clinicians with Women's Cancer Resource Center.
March 23rd, I will host COVID-19 Vaccine Forum in collaboration with NASW- CA.
Social workers have been the invisible heroes supporting folks with both their health and mental health needs. This year, I am encouraging you all to celebrate Social Work Month by giving the Social Workers you know and love their flowers ( both literally and figuratively).
Who are your favorite Social Workers? In what ways have you benefited from the support of a social worker?
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