Best and worst decisions: John Davies, a mental health social worker in London

John Davies is glad he stayed as a frontline social worker, while a case of schizophrenia still haunts him

John Davies is glad he stayed as a frontline social worker, while a case of schizophrenia still haunts him

The best

The best decision I made was to do the approved social worker course. Some of my friends have gone into management but I want to stay working as a social worker. My new role of approved mental health professional has provided me with a fresh challenge and given me more options about what future work I can do in my career as a social worker.

The worst

Years ago when I was working as a social worker on a medical ward, before I had any specialist mental health experience, a man with a history of schizophrenic illness was admitted.

He had drunk alcohol to excess over a long period and had a new diagnosis of alcohol-related dementia. He was under the care of a community mental health team when he arrived on the ward.

The case was transferred to me because the manager of that team said I had a level of expertise in dementia care. Although I thought there was something wrong with this approach the alarm bells that should have been ringing in my head were not.

I organised a move for him into a nursing home that also had independent living flats which I naively believed he could transfer into at a later stage.

The situation deteriorated quickly; he was in a place surrounded by people twice his age, he did not settle at all and the staff could not care for him in many ways. He lost weight rapidly and was transferred back to a mental health ward in the hospital I worked in after three weeks. His sister with great justification wrote a letter of complaint to my manager.

This case rests firmly in my mind as it happened at the end of my first year after qualification. I made a huge conscious effort after this to examine ­carefully the decisions I was going to make and to use supervision and advice from more experienced professionals but to always consider whether this advice was right from my knowledge and experience.

If student social workers ask me the most important piece of advice I can give, I say use ­supervision well – knowing that your supervisor has more ­experience than you but that you have more specific knowledge of the needs and lives of the people you work with.

John Davies is a mental health social worker in London

This article is published in the 29 April issue of Community Care magazine under the heading A new challenge and the memory of a mishandled case

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.