Social Work as a Profession

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Exploration of a Profession: Social Work Interview
Julie Simmons
University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Exploration of a Profession: Social Work Interview
If you walk into most Social Institutions where Social Workers are employed there always seem to be a few things that they have in common: adults, children and a variety of facial expressions. Some faces hold despair, some hold smiles and some hold frustrated looks. What does this all mean and what in the world does it have to do with the profession? Social Work, is it just another job, a profession obtained by a scholarly degree, a license and a nameplate on the door, or is it much more than that? No quicker than one can place words on paper, during an interview with the Program Coordinator, Mr. Alfred Zankpah at Mental Heath Services, there is the discovery that leads one to believe so much more. Social Work is more than a profession. Somewhere in the plethora of paperwork, phone calls and appointments, you find that Social Work can be nothing less than a calling. Mr. Alfred Zankpah has been employed in the Social Services field for approximately twenty years. In order to obtain the position of Program Coordinator one must hold a Masters degree in Social Work or another Socially related field and must have gained a substantial amount of field related experience. He is responsible for overseeing a staff of 17 other Social Workers, who in turn are responsible for up to 29 cases each. Mr. Zankpah and his staff, in their diligence, must perform many different roles. This institution services the Mental Health community in two different arenas. They service the undiagnosed mentally ill consumer primarily as a broker and the legally diagnosed mentally ill consumer in a variety of other areas. They take on the role of an enabler, a broker, an advocate, an educator, an initiator, an empowerer, and a coordinator. In their daily case management duties of attempting to find suitable residence, adequate medical attention, coordinating benefits management, medication monitoring and the constant assessment of their mental health status the workers must employ many of the items listed as competency areas. A few noted by Zastrow (2009) were: 1. Identifying oneself as a professional social worker and behaving accordingly. (2.1.1) 2. Knowing social work ethical principles and using them to guide professional practice. (2.1.2) 3. Promoting critical thinking by using logic and reasoning to effectively communicate professional decisions. (2.1.3) 4. Engaging in policy practice to advance social and economic well-being and deliver effective social work services. (2.1.8) 5. Being prepared to respond proactively to evolving social needs, service delivery trends, and social systems that comprise the social work practice context. (2.1.9) 6. Having the necessary knowledge and skills to engage, assess, intervene and evaluate clients at all levels of social work practices. (2.1.10)

When dealing with a diverse group of people there are apt to be difficulties or problems as well as benefits regardless of the realm of work that you are in. The most pronounced problem noted while interviewing the Mental Health discipline was that sometimes the Mental Health issues were accompanied by other factors such as a diminished level of understanding and even substance abuse. Fortunately, the benefits of most undertakings usually outweigh the problems and this was no different. When Mr. Zankpah was questioned about the benefits of Social Work he admirably responded, “The benefits to me are that I get to help someone achieve their best.” (A. Zankpah, personal communication March 23, 2011) Excitedly I found this seemed to be the general consensus throughout the office, which only enforces the notion that Social Work is definitely a calling. It takes a special person to be able to not only handle the Social problems that face the mentally ill, but also have a genuine concern even...
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