Join the journey of a fairly recently graduated MSW social worker, navigating the expanse of hospice social work in the south, the ups and downs of graduate school, LCSW exam stress and excitement, and preparing for a future in macro social work practice

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What is this language you speak?

I just got out of new employee orientation at the hospice. Once again, I am wishing I knew more about medicine.

All through my school experience, I never thought even for a millisecond that I would eventually become a medical social worker. It wasn’t even remotely appealing to me. I really wanted to work for a non-profit of some kind doing some kind of something. As you can see, I am a very driven person who knows exactly what she wants in this life.

After graduation, the economy’s downward tide has made medical social work considerably more appealing. I was hired for the position I have now as a hospice social worker despite the fact that I haven’t yet obtained my MSW, despite the fact that I only recently graduated with my BSW, despite the fact that I have no experience as a social worker in any capacity, and despite the fact that my knowledge of anything even remotely medical can fit on the head of a pin.

I think it was an act of Deity.

So even though I had no idea whether or not I would find success or happiness in this branch of social work, I packed my bags and headed across the country; from northern Utah to southern Virginia. From the land of the Mormons to the land of the Southern Baptists. From the land of funeral potatoes and green Jello to the land of biscuits and gravy and grits. I think it’s safe to say I needed a change of pace anyway.

The change of pace has been nice. But challenging. Very challenging. See, I’m not medically trained. At all. On my first day on the job, I was reading a patient’s chart and I came across the acronym “S.O.B.” The context: “Patient was sitting up in bed talking and friendly, but noticeably SOB.” I thought to myself, ‘SOB? Hmm… that can’t possibly mean what I think it means…. But what does it mean?’ I can’t honestly say that I am much of a question asker (it’s something I’m working on), and so I just sat there for awhile trying to figure out what S.O.B. meant. I could have asked my boss and that would have been the end of it.

A couple of days later after reading it in about 20 other charts, it finally dawned on me that S.O.B must stand for short of breath. I mentioned this confusion to my medically trained sister and she laughed really hard. A couple of days later she and the physical therapist presented me with a list of commonly used medical acronyms.

It’s proved very helpful.

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