Personal experiences from social work inernships

Social work major Karen Bush is not interning at a social work agency. Rather, she is interning at Parkhouse Providence Point, a public-skilled nursing facility in Warriorsford, Pa., with social workers on staff.

Working two days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. is giving her meaningful and useful experience within the field of social work. She is working on a 200-year anniversary project for PPP which will help future residents of the facility.

Bush said PPP began as an alms house where people would come and work, then it eventually grew into a 500-resident skilled nursing facility where “90 percent of the residents there can no longer pay for health care.”

For their 200-year anniversary, Bush is helping to compile interviews with the older women at the facility to make a small book. She asks the residents questions like, “How did and do you cope with an aging body?” and “What was it like to first lose your driver’s license?” Bush learns the women’s life stories and histories.

Along with the project, Bush assesses patients’ adjustment progress and completes the mundane tasks like admissions and transfers. She also helps them get involved in activities and with various other needs.

Bush decided to get into social work because it integrated many of her interests such as justice issues and people from different ethnicities.

Bush has been learning how to connect behaviors and emotions to what people tell her. From her experiences at PPP, Bush said, “I’m learning how to work with people and how to communicate better – not even verbal, but nonverbal and silences and trying to reach beyond what [people] are telling me.”

Nine-and-a-half times out of 10, senior Kate Stone leaves her social work internship wondering whether she made any progress with her clients. Interning at Intercultural Family Services Incorporated has given her a reality check.

“I’ve learned that you can’t really change people,” Stone said. However, she does believe she can make a difference.

“[Social workers] help people and are a fresh set of eyes on the situation,” Stone said.

Working with people, assessing their situation, setting goals and striving to reach those goals is taxing. Why then, is Stone majoring in social work and going through with her internship?

“I’ve always, always, always wanted to work with people,” Stone said. She loves talking to and getting to know people. Her heart breaks for people born under the poverty level who cannot get out and are made to stay there.

Like many college students, Stone tried about five different majors during her early college years before deciding social work would be the way to go.

“[Social work skills] are just incredible skills to have,” Stone said.

Stone interned at IFSI during the 2007 fall semester and continued there this semester. She works in the SCOH department, which provides services to children in their own homes, so she makes home visits. “I carry my own cases as [does] any other social worker,” Stone said.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services assesses situations, creates goals and then different public and private social work agencies help the clients fulfill the goals. Stone said she serves as the eyes and ears of the DHS.

“I’m mandated to go to the houses of the families for an hour every week,” Stone said.

It is tough work. Stone said there are tons of forms to fill out and sometimes it gets very hectic.

“My favorite moments in social work are few and far between, but when they happen, they are incredible,” she said. It is difficult to sit in the home of a client, or with a kid and his or her principal feeling like there is not much that can be done, but then she recalls everything she learned in her classes.

“It’s such a cool feeling to be able to fall back on education,” Stone said.

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