Today's story is told through the eyes of Vikki Brewster, a social worker who shares how she came into the field, the changes and influences that have shaped her practice, the challenges she faces serving and supporting the population she is passionate about, and the causes she now finds herself advocating for. We thank Vikki for sharing while providing another opportunity to give and receive!
I still have the essay I wrote as part of my application for graduate school 17 years ago. As I read it now, my ideals have not changed, just the demographic (I love working with seniors). My original inspiration for going into the 'helping profession' was due to my time spent volunteering at a domestic violence shelter while I attended college part-time. I worked primarily with the children at the shelter who were exposed to domestic violence. I entertained them, listened to them, and was involved in group sessions with them. Some of my happiest moments were making those children laugh.
Several years later I applied to graduate school to obtain my Master's in Social Work. This was the best decision I made academically. A social work degree was flexible. I would have more choices for employment after graduation and I truly believed there would be few obstacles in my path. The graduate program was amazing, the coursework exciting/enriching and the internships extremely beneficial. Post graduation, I took the licensure exam and became a Certified Social Worker in the state of New York. I was employed as a therapist with emotionally disturbed children for almost two years until I realized youth was not my niche. I took a pay cut and decided to focus on case management with adults diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. This was a great experience, but again I realized not my niche.
I married, moved to another country, and started over professionally. As a spouse awaiting my permanent residency status in Canada, I was not allowed to work initially and volunteered with adults with developmental disabilities assisting with obtaining employment, as well as with seniors who where Holocaust Survivors. The volunteer position turned into a part-time job. Twelve and a half years later I still work primarily with Holocaust Survivors and enjoy my work! I am able to do group facilitation, case management, assessments, home visits, provide short-term counseling, and I also edit a newsletter. As my clients are aging, I see the challenges they face and what is lacking in the current healthcare system. This has led me to End-of-Life issues, Palliative Care and an interest in healthcare. I have come to see that there needs to be a shift and focus on allowing seniors to 'age in place' and the services must expand in order to do so. Expansion obviously requires money from the government, both on a federal and provincial level. Healthcare needs to shift to a Patient-Centered approach with professionals available to the patient in either a facility or clinic. There is also a need for case managers to oversee the patients with chronic and complex health issues, while coordinating with the professionals that need to be involved in the patients overall care.
I have realized much with the work that I have been immersed into for many years now. For one, end-of-life needs to become less taboo and society needs to realize that in the cycle of life-there must be death; to be born, one must die. I feel that we need to let individuals die with dignity and at home if that is what they choose, while having the necessary professionals and services in place. As a society we need to lighten up, reduce stress levels and find what makes us happy in life. Again, a shift is needed and I believe this will happen; with less focus on materials things and more focus on human relationships, quality not quantity.
I feel it is important that every professional re-evaluate their interests and find their passion, their niche population, their niche demographic. As professionals we should also advocate within our profession for any needed updates or changes. For example, many social workers have expressed their frustration with licensure and certification requirements and the fact that it is not national, the license or certificate is not transferable from state to state or province to province.
So, are their obstacles to face? Yes! Politics involved? Yes! Is it all worth it? Yes!
About Can You Hear Me?
Daniel Jacob, MSW Email
Founder of Can You Hear Me? External Field Instructor at University of Southern California School of Social Work MSW@USC. Daniel has a Masters in Social Work (Families and Children Practice/School Social Work). He is currently nearing the completion of the LCSW testing process. More about the man behind the mission ⇢