During the foundation semester, it was hard to go a week without hearing a professor tell us how different our thought pattern would be by the time we walked across the stage at graduation. Out of stubbornness and a bit of naivety, I scoffed at the comment thinking the only thing that would change in two years was the amount of experience I would gain, the social work knowledge I would gather over the two years, and learn tangible ways to assist clients in therapy and practice.
One of the most profound moments of change I had this year was during my field placement with Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston in the Meals on Wheels department. One afternoon I took a call from a local hospice agency requesting meals for a client who had a few weeks left on this earth. Our policy dictated we were unable to add him to our route; with a breaking heart I passed the information along and immediately went to my supervisor to seek feedback. Policy said we were not allowed to serve this client, but our intuition said we did.
As a clinical student, I came in with a mindset that policy was more of a nuisance, and would have little direct affect on my future practice. When I encountered this phone call, the effects of policy came to life. I now had a story and a glimpse into what policy has the potential for doing- both good and bad. Problem solving and collaboration allowed us to find a way to work with internal policy and get this client a daily meal.
While there is still a year left before I graduate, my thought pattern, instincts, and awareness to the world around us has begun to take on a new pattern. My practice is influenced by my classroom learning, but heavily supported by my own belief system. My weeks, although busy, have pockets of self-care to ensure that I take care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have built a network of support to ask questions, be honest about shortcomings, and seek wisdom and comfort. I acknowledge the nuance of policy in practice and seek to understand policies as they actively relate to serving others.
As you begin your MSW, stay cognizant to what is happening around you, both in the program and out. You will encounter clients that present what appears to be impossible needs, become challenged by colleagues, and find yourself stretched by the request from your professors and supervisors. Embrace the challenge and lean into your community for support. No good road traveled presents itself without forks, divots, and bumps. Enjoy the journey!