A Trip Back in Time: Reflection on the Past Three Years in Retrograde, Part 1

2014 was, on one hand, an intense chaotic year for me, and on the other hand a peaceful easy going year. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it was a year of many dynamic changes with many nuances influencing the other. These dynamic changes were set into motion three years ago. I will be reflecting, here, on my last three years, which have led me to the spot I am in today. Here we go… enjoy the spiral ride back into time…

∞∞∞ woosh, woosh, spiral, spiral ∞∞∞

∞∞∞January 2014∞∞∞

January was a hopeful time, in a sense, because I didn’t know what to expect. I was feeling anxious, a feeling that carried throughout most of the year, but at the same time I was very hopeful. I was entering my last semester of college, and would be graduating the coming May with a bachelors in Social Work. I would be entering an internship to practice the skills I’ve learned in school; a field experience past the trail of research papers and dense text books.

I conducted my 480 VOLUNTEER hour internship at a local Hospice, a place I was already volunteering at for, at the time, over 2 years. I already knew the respite experience of Hospice – sitting with the patient while family and/or caregivers were out of the home to run errands and such – but I didn’t know the Social Work side of Hospice. I wanted to know all sides of the place I’ve dedicated so much of my time to, and around a subject that many are not comfortable with: death and dying. I was hopeful for an opening and growing experience that may hold certainty of what I, my self, would want to do as a profession. It would answer the question: Do I want to work in a Hospice setting, around the subject of death and dying?

∞∞∞A trip further back in time, to November 2011∞∞∞

Before I get into my discussion of my Hospice Social Worker internship, I will discuss briefly why I decided to volunteer at Hospice. Back in November 2011 I was writing a paper for my Human Development course related to the last stage of life, which not only included old age but also death and dying (I wish I saved that report, but I lost it along the way of other research papers and having my computer reformatted). The professor I had who taught Human Development gave the class an article related to Hospice care and then asked us a question, Should effective and consistent Hospice care be available to all citizens of the U.S.? I will not get into this topic here, since it is not part of my post, but maybe later on when my blog is more developed I will.

For more information on this topic, please go to: LETTING GO, what should medicine do when it can’t save your life?

Ever since I took the Human Development course, and learned about the last stage of life as well as getting introduced to Hospice care, I became interested in the subject of Death and Dying, as well as alternative medicines, to a degree, in order to provide comfort care to terminally ill patients and their families. I also wanted to understand a topic that is almost always avoided until someone is facing it: death and dying. I wanted to prepare myself for what may come into my life; I wanted to know how to properly handle the most challenging and unavoidable – yet the only predictable – part of life: death. So, I attended the Hospice volunteer orientation in November 2011.

The Hospice Volunteer orientation was a 32 hour “training” that consisted of videos, scenarios, and a role play related to the last stage of life. It also consisted of different members of the Hospice team speaking and introducing to the – then, future volunteers – what Hospice is all about. One day a Social Worker came in and spoke. At the time I knew very little about Social Work, only the stereotypical stuff like “they take your kids away”.

From the brief presentation the Hospice Social Worker gave I learned that the Hospice Social Workers work with all members of the interdisciplinary team in order to help create plans of care for patient and family. The Hospice Social Workers work with the patient and family to provide social services such as AHCCCS (Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System), go over Medicare plans, and work with the family in order to begin Advance Directives. The Social Workers do a lot with the families in order for them, too, to be comfortable and all needs are met, including social and emotional support. There are a lot of dynamics within Hospice care, as well as what the Social Workers do. This presentation was only a beginning of my unfinished journey of developing a professional career within the social sciences, beyond the classroom and textbooks.

Once the presentation was over, and that day of training ended, I spoke to another gal, who is around my age, about Social Work, since she was in the Social Work program at our local college. I told her about my interest in the Social Sciences, particularly Psychology, and asked which would be better to go into: Social Work, or strictly Psychology? Her suggestion was to begin in Social Work since you get intensive training in the Social Work program and, later on if I wanted to go into Psychology, it’ll cut back schooling by two years. She also stated in Social Work, there are a lot more opportunities and a variety of ways you can go with just a bachelors, even. So, I decided to give it a shot. I entered an Introduction to Social Work course the following Spring.

Moving forward, Spring, 2012∞∞∞∞∞∞

The Introduction to Social Work course confirmed, to me, that Social Work was what I’d like to study. In that course I learned about the different dynamics of Social Work, and different ways I could go, such as Mental Health, Judicial, CPS, Geriatrics, Children and Family, School Social Work, and many more. In this course I also did a 25 hour volunteer experience at a local Social Service agency to get an idea of what Social Work is about by shadowing a real Social Worker.

Well, in this course, I didn’t really shadow a Social Worker. Instead, I volunteered at the local Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, which is a social services provided to the public, but not necessarily Social Work. But, I obtain experience working with children ages ranging from 5 years to 12 years old. So, it was a Social experience that was, sort of, related to Social Work, but not quite Social Work… but, I still got experience and passed the course with an A. And I was still interested in Social Work. But, I have to admit, even though I enjoyed working with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, I felt I didn’t get enough experience to really know what Social Work was all about. Through listening to my classmates experiences, though, as well as my instructor’s Social Work career experience, I was still interested in Social Work. I have always had this drive to help create Social Change. So, the following Fall, in 2012, I entered the 2 year Social Work Program.

Fall 2012∞∞∞∞∞∞

I thought I enjoyed writing and research, but my first semester of the Social Work program was a bit of an eye opener in a sense of what it takes to really be a competent Social Worker and a writer in the field of academics and Social Science. This was the first semester I was really introduced to the Scientific Method when it comes to research writing and Evidence Based Practice. I also was introduce to Social Policy, its history, and how very little has changed since the 1930s in relation to updates on the Social Policies for social services for oppressed populations within the U.S.A. The History of Social Policy course within my first semester of the Social Work program gave me even more drive and self-determination to become a Social Worker. I also learned, by the end of the Social Policy course, that I do enjoy research and its methods in relation to the Social Sciences. I looked forward to future research projects, but I still couldn’t help feeling anxious, since even though we learned a lot about Social Policy, we learned very little that first semester about the “Plan Change Process”, interviewing clients, and other elements of what it means to be a competent Social Worker. So, I was interested to learn even more. I had bright hopes for my future.

Spring 2013∞∞∞∞∞∞

Fall cooled over and froze into Winter, Christmas holiday came and went, a few weeks of relaxation and family time came and passed, and then back to school and hopes for future prosperity.

As it usually goes when one is studying a particular subject, each element builds upon the other, and the further you go into that subject, the more complex it becomes. Welp, that is a bit how the Social Work program was. The first semester was easy going, with relatively easy courses other than the History of Social Policy course, which consisted of a long research paper related to the Social Security Act of 1935. My second semester in the Social Work program gave me more growing experiences, both in school and out of school.

Within the school spectrum, I learned how to work within a group, on a team in relation to conducting research, in Research Methods for Social Work course. Also, I learned more on Social Policy in the state and federal sectors, with another Social Policy class, where we went to Phoenix, where the state senators, state representatives and such, hold office. It was an interesting experience learning about how bills are created, passed, and how to fight to get a particular bill to pass. There was a lot of information to take in within my second semester in Social Work program in relation to Social Policy, and a lot was hard to retain. The biggest growing experiences I had, though, in my second semester of the Social Work program was my Research course and my General Practice 1, Micro Social Work course. First I’ll speak of research.

In my Research course my group and I conducted a research paper that our professor was impressed with, so it turned into a real research project that he helped take part in. The projected carried on through the Fall of 2013 to the Spring of 2014. It was a moving experience and showed me what it means to be part of a team and work together with others to create something, and as well helped me to make a few good friends.

In General Practice 1 course I got a real feeling of what it means to be a traditional Social Worker. In this course I was introduced to the “plan change process” (Engage, assess, intervention, evaluation) and learned some interviewing skills when dealing with clients. We did a lot of role playing in this course, which helped me open up a little but… I still struggled with presentations in front of the room, especially with the role plays, so I always felt awkward during presentations. In this course we had to do another volunteer learning experience.

For the volunteer learning experience we were to do “Friendly visiting” with an elderly individual, who primarily lives alone, for a period of 15 weeks, which is how long the semester was. We were to visit this individual once a week, for one hour only. We were to practice the interviewing skills and report in “process recordings” our progress and such. I really enjoyed this class, and I enjoyed the individual who I “friendly visited”. But, I still was anxious and nervous after this course, since even though I had plenty of practice with the interviewing skills, I still was unsure about myself. So, when I had to present my progress to the class and do a small role play with the individual I was visiting, I felt I was awkward and nervous, instead of sure of myself.

My classmates and I had to do a lot of presentations, particularly group presentations, this semester in all courses. You’d think, after all of the presentations in front of the class, I’d be more comfortable in presenting in front of people, but I wasn’t. Yet, I remained hopeful for the future and thought maybe I will be comfortable and less shy around people I don’t know by the end of the program.

Also, in Spring 2013 I had my first “serious” relationship, that lasted six months. Through this relationship I learned what I want – and what I DON’T want – in an intimate relationship. So, 2013 was another year of growing for me, both in the education realm and beyond.

Fall 2013∞∞∞∞∞∞

Spring came and went like a breeze, followed by Summer which melted, and moved like molasses, into Fall. My third semester of the Social Work program has begun. As I mentioned in previous passage, in Spring of 2013 myself and a few classmates took part in a research project with our professor of Research. The research carried through part of the Summer and through the fall semester as well. We chose to continue with the research project as part of our Community Change project in General practice III course, Macro Social Work, since it dealt with friendly visiting and the homebound elderly. Again, I was doing work with the elderly – and by the way, I still at this point, volunteer with Hospice and enjoying it.

As part of the Community Change project, my group and I conducted one hour friendly visits with 12 homebound elderly individuals for a period of four weeks; we each had 3 individuals to visit. Again, it was another opportunity to practice interviewing skills and help me get out of my “comfort zone”.

Well, the weeks went by, and with each friendly visit I felt more comfortable with the individuals I was visiting, but when it came to presentations and talking in the classroom I was still awkward and nervous. On top of the Community Change project, we had to write a lot of assessments in the assessment course, including an assessment of ourselves. In General Practice II course, Mezo Social Work, which was primarily focused on family, we had to write an assessment on our family which consisted of created a Geno-gram. In this semester we learned a lot about theory and different methods when it comes to creating interventions and helping individuals and families as well. As stated already… the deeper you go into a subject, the more intense and detailed it becomes.

This third semester, along with learning about theory of practice and assessment, we learned some about mental health, and mental health has always been an interest of mine. I was enjoying the ride of the Social Work program and looked forward to my last semester, even though I was nervous because it consisted of a field experience that’ll put my skills to the test, as well as to help prepare me for a real career in my field of study, pass the papers and text books. Also, it consisted of my research group and I presenting our paper at the WSSA (Western Social Science Association) convention in Albuquerque, NM. Talk about anxiety! A shy, sheltered girl like myself, who is nervous STILL about speaking in front of her classmates, people she has known now for a year and half! Now she will be presenting at a Social Science conference to total strangers!

∞∞∞In comes the one, and only… year 2014∞∞∞

The last semester in my social work program, and the entire year 2014 itself, is a post all of its own. So, I will end this long detailed post here… more to come in reflections… Reflection on the past three years in retrograde, part 2, will be posted in a few days. Stay tuned, see you next time on A Trip Back in Time!

Peace & Love ❤

∞∞∞∞∞∞

Picture found here: Speed Up Results by Time Traveling to Your Future (this article is actually interesting too, and short, so go a head and read it) 🙂

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