Jane Naik, review and assessment project team social worker for Redbridge Council,
continues our series on decision-making with her career highs and lows
My best work-related decision was to leave a job I really enjoyed to move to one closer to home. I had been a social worker in a busy city centre adults care team for some years, enjoying the location near the shops and the variety of work.
I loved it to start with – I walked everywhere and got to know the city well, discovering hidden parks among the city buzz. The team was vibrant and we enjoyed a good social life. Our service users varied from ex-theatre staff, always ready with a theatrical tale, to former homeless people, living in hostels. To use the cliché, there was never a dull moment.
But after my first child was born I saw things differently. The commute was a drag, not to mention expensive, and the novelty of window-shopping had palled. I applied for a social work job in an adults social work team near to home. I was sad and slightly anxious having worked for the same local authority for more than eight years.
But my new team was lovely and the work interesting. New opportunities opened up, and I successfully applied for a senior practitioner’s job a few months after joining. It was the best move I ever made.
Disregarding the feelings of a young woman I’d been working with for some months was my worst work decision. At the time I was a hospital social worker and, in my defence, still relatively inexperienced. The woman was in remission from cancer and was struggling to regain some independence. Together we worked successfully to rebuild this. We worked closely with the occupational therapists and made several home visits to discuss progress and offer support and strategies.
After several months of work, my manager and I discussed her case in supervision and agreed it was now time for me to close her case. I completed the necessary paperwork and closed the file. Some days later I bumped into the young woman as she visited an outpatients’ clinic. Grinning broadly she mentioned that she needed to talk to me about something. Breezily, and without thinking, I told her I’d closed her case and was no longer her social worker. Her face fell, and then she became angry. In front of the entire clinic she berated me for my lack of courtesy and demanded to know why I hadn’t had the consideration to tell her this before. Shamefaced, I apologised and fled.
I still cringe when I think of this. Years later I am always very careful about how I talk with service users, and in particular how we discuss the end of my involvement in their lives.
Would you like to share your best and worst career decisions? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the 5 March edition of Community Care under the headline ‘I still cringe when I think about it’