A Month Out in the Field

by Melanie

When I read that I was placed at Legacy Community Health Services in Montrose, I was ecstatic.

HIV/AIDS population – check.

Some LGBT community relevance – check.

No deep religious affiliation – check.

No tiny children running amok – check (Don’t get me wrong. I love kids. Just not at work.)

Considering the many agencies the GCSW has to choose from and the difficulties of finding a good fit for all students, I knew I was lucky to be placed at a site that matched my request exactly. Full of eager over-achievement adrenaline, I called the supervisor as soon as I could. I left a message and sent an e-mail. A few hours later, I became unreasonably anxious and called a different number and reached someone who appeared to have little to no idea what I was talking about. Anxiety became panic.  I learned that my potential supervisor had left Legacy. My GCSW friends, settled in their placements, were sympathetic, and I dreaded the thought of spending a year in the opposite of what I had asked for: like the Association for Toddlers Running Amok for a Higher Power, or something.  (And check out that acronym: A TRAHP (trap).  I didn’t even mean to do that. Zing!)

Miraculously, the field office pulled through for me in the search for someone who was qualified to fit the role of supervisor so that I could stay at Legacy.  After the interview with my new supervisor, I knew I was even luckier than I thought.

–Fast forward to now.

I have been at Legacy for about a month and could not have asked for a better first semester placement. For your reading ease, I will now list the challenging and rewarding aspects of my placement experience thus far, starting with the challenging.

The Challenging:

  1. Not enough hours in the day, week, month…  Getting the total number of hours needed this semester (180 hours) is a little tricky, since the clinic is not open on weekends and I have other time-consuming commitments (20 hr/wk graduate assistantship, blocked classes on Wednesday, student orgs., family, friends, keeping sanity 24/7, etc.).
  2. Playing musical chairs–without the music.   As is the case with many non-profits, it can get complicated finding a place to sit. The solution in my case was to find the people who have a computer and only work half days.
  3. Yeah, right.   I don’t get paid… which was never an expectation, just my own, purely hypothetical, wishful thinking.

 The Good:

  1. Collaboration on my Educational Contract (Field Placement Goals) was painless.   My supervisor and I see eye-to-eye on most everything I plan to get out of my time at Legacy. Though she does guide much of what I do, she often tells me to make my own schedule according to what I would like to learn.  Since her actual job is to be Director of Social Services and NOT Melanie’s Job Dictator, it’s understandable that she would be too busy to dictate my every move, and this independence only adds to the realistic nature of field practicum. Things change all the time anyway, so sometimes creating a schedule is futile. 
  2. There are endless opportunities to learn.   I have observed a crisis intervention call (a collaborative effort between clinics), the eligibility application process, brief and comprehensive assessments with case managers and their clients, a psychiatric screening, the social services departmental meetings and actually had a blast at their annual all-staff meeting. I’ve attended many trainings and information sessions regarding federal grants, workplace logistics, and “HIV 101.” I’ve met interesting people from many different walks of life and even got to call clients to remind them of their appointments. Every client has been accepting of my presence during his or her session and every staff member has been exceptional at including me and allowing me to feel like I am a part of Legacy.
  3. The People.   The staff at Legacy is amazing. I could not ask for a more down-to-earth, fun-loving, and caring group.  It is truly amazing how every person and department has been a resource at my disposal.  My supervisor is an open and warm person whose passion for social work is apparent every day. The others in the social services department never make me feel like a burden. Though we have our office banter about it, no one makes me feel like “the intern.”

It’s also nice that I need not worry about my sexual orientation being taboo, wearing expensive clothes, or having to cover my tattoos—expressing my individuality is more than just respected, it’s encouraged!  Low to no stress, Melanie—you’re paying to be here, so get as much out of it as you can.  Next semester, I will have a caseload of about 10 clients… time to really get some practice in this month so I can be prepared.

Bring it on!


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