Social worker Sharon Brown recalls the peaks and troughs of her career so far
One of the best decisions I made was, having worked as a veterinary nurse, to retrain as a social worker in my 40s.
I chose to become a social worker as, from a teenager, I’d always felt strongly about the injustice shown to some vulnerable people.
Working with a diverse group of people on work placements and visiting service users who brought first-hand experiences to our college lectures helped broaden my mind.
My third-year placement at a hospice social work department showed me how good practice could be exercised without the monetary constraints of statutory funding and the accompanying, often unrealistic, targets.
I would hope that the current economic climate affecting financial support, including fundraising donations to the voluntary sector, does not constrain this.
I felt privileged to be able to secure continuing care funding for patients wishing to spend their last days with loved ones, in their own homes, secure in the knowledge they had hospice support from specialised nursing care, through physiotherapy and occupational therapy and eventual bereavement support for family members.
My worst decision, and possibly one that taught me most about listening to service users and challenging structural decisions, was one I made while working at a nursing home for older people.
Residents were encouraged to attend an afternoon of music and singing provided by two visiting entertainers and I was asked to accompany a resident to this concert. I was told, in no uncertain terms by the resident, a wheelchair-user, that she had no intention of going to the concert.
I duly went to notify the staff. Here I was informed that the woman’s family had insisted she joined in any entertainment opportunities that were offered as, after all, they were paying for her to stay at the home.
I quickly regretted the decision not to question this, thus ignoring the woman’s request. I took her along to the room where the entertainment was to take place but she was obviously distressed.
She made it quite clear that she did not like the music and that she felt disempowered. I apologised to her and returned her to her room where we quietly sat and chatted. I was not popular with the staff but felt, finally, I had rectified my dreadful mistake.
Sharon Brown is a qualified social worker, freelance writer and photographer. She currently works for the Riding for the Disabled Association