Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Product Review: Tom's Black Camila Ballet Flats


Given the amount of time I spend standing and walking at work, I should ideally be setting aside more money on better footwear. However, I'm so bad about replacing my shoes that I've been wearing the same Target flats to work for two years (occasionally alternating a 4 year old pair of Clark's boots and another pair of Aerosoles boots I "borrowed" from my mom). Despite my high pain tolerance when it comes to all things footwear, I figured something needed to change given recent foot and leg soreness after work.

During a recent trip to Disneyland for a friend's bachelorette party, my friend fell in love with a pair of Toms another friend was wearing. During a midday run to the mall to get my friend a pair of her own, I tried on the shoes to discover that they were indeed pretty comfortable. On top of that, I learned that the benefit of buying Toms shoes is that for each pair purchased, the company donates a pair to a child in need.  However, I decided to hold off as I didn't have suitcase space, the internet had better prices, and I wasn't 100% on board with the aesthetics.

Upon coming from from Disneyland, I found out that Toms had ballet flats (which are more my style) on sale and purchased a pair of my own.  Here are my thoughts so far:


The shoes are pretty cute and go with almost anything. I anticipate replacing my Target shoes with these as my go-to flat for work. However, if you're expecting thick leather, then you might be disappointed as the shoe is made out of a soft, thin leather attached to a canvas liner.  Another nit-pick I have is that the right shoe bows out, revealing a little of the leopard print liner. I don't mind so much, as that tends to happen with most flats I own. On a more positive note, I'm glad that Toms replaced the blue tag on the heel with a black one!  That means I can now get away with wearing these shoes for dressier events!


Size-wise, this shoe runs a little big, though they probably won't stretch as much as the original Toms. I'd suggest going down one size from your usual, and if you're between sizes I'd go down one size from your larger measurement. When trying on the ballet flats for sizing, I found that my original size fit and was really comfortable, but when I started walking I noticed that the only thing keeping the shoe from falling off was the heel elastic.  Next time, I might go up half a size from what I purchased because I added some foam inserts from the drugstore to avoid "Toms stink", which made them fit rather tightly, though not enough to warrant an exchange.

In terms of comfort, these shoes are initially not as comfortable as the original Tom's.  This is mostly because of the smaller toe box which rubs up against my pinkie toe.  However, I expect this to stretch out as I break in the shoe and not cause me and further problems other than the lack of arch support. In fact, when I went shoe shopping last Friday, I found these pair of Toms to be just as comfortable - if not more so - than brands that cost 2-3 times as much!

Overall, I would not pay $89 for these shoes. Thankfully, I managed to get these shoes on sale and paid significantly less while still allowing a child in need to get a pair of shoes.  I'll probably purchase from Toms again for casual/travel shoes due to their comfort, but for the sake of my future leg health I may have to rotate in brands with more arch support for my work shoes in the future.

If you're interested in trying out Tom's shoes, here's a coupon: $5 off any $25 TOMS purchase with code SPRING15 in the promo code section at checkout on TOMS.com! Valid through 5/31.[affiliate link]

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Santa Clara County Social Worker Reclassification: Fight for Title Protection!

It's no secret that I am a huge proponent of social worker title protection. As I've mentioned on this blog in past posts, I strongly believe that lack of national title protection is why social workers are underpaid, because this allows non-social workers to take social worker jobs and hence depress our wages.  Never mind the potential for disaster when you have non-social workers attempting to perform social work tasks.

Hence, I was infuriated when I received an e-mail informing me that a local Bay Area county is considering reclassifying social worker jobs to allow for individuals with masters degrees in counseling, psychology, and gerontology. Last I checked, an individual needed a nursing degree to be called a "nurse", and a law degree to be called a "lawyer". For me, it makes absolutely no sense that someone without a social work degree can be called a "social worker".

Hours later, I had penned a letter which has since been e-mailed to Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors. Below is an except from that letter.
I am writing to you today to express concern regarding the revision of job specifications for Social Worker II and Social Worker III positions as proposed by the Santa Clara County's Employee Services Agency.

In the hospital setting, we have rules and regulations in place so that various disciplines do not function outside their respective scope of practice. Therefore, when a nurse is treating a patient, the patient can safely assume that whoever is treating them is a nurse with a nursing degree. To allow someone to call themselves a nurse without the requisite education is dangerous and potentially deadly. The same goes for physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, nutritionists, and social workers.

To become an MSW, one must go through a rigorous program that involves extensive field training and specialized coursework in social theory, policy, advocacy, ethics, research, and evidenced-based practice methods. Social work is unique because it is a profession founded on the principles of social justice and the idea of systems theory/"person in environment", which looks at how an individual is shaped by factors such as community, culture, government policies, and socioeconomics. While other professions choose to focus on what is ailing an individual, social workers employ a multidisciplinary strengths-focused approach to empower individuals to overcome whatever obstacles they face in their lives. Social workers take pride in their title and do not appreciate it when those without the requisite education refer to themselves as “social workers”. While California currently does not have social worker title protection laws in place, such legislation is actively being pursued by the California branch of the National Association of Social Workers.

At work, I am most frequently called to de-escalate and resolve situations the rest of the hospital staff cannot handle. This is due to my ability to see a patient as a person instead of a medical diagnosis that must be treated. In my short career as a medical social worker, I’ve witnessed all too often patients unfairly misunderstood, stigmatized, and brushed aside due to their situations (i.e. poverty, mental illness, history of drug use, etc.). What’s heartbreaking is that the culprits are medical professionals who believe they can replace a social worker through applied medicine and psychology. This reinforces my belief that we not only need more properly educated social workers to serve as patient advocates, but more public education on the roles and capabilities of a social worker. There is much more to social work than diagnostics, therapy, and the "baby snatcher" stereotype.

To consider non-social work degree holders for the title of "social worker" is an insult to the thousands of individuals who possess graduate degrees and passed rigorous licensure exams.  From a financial standpoint, the money spent on training sessions for non-social workers to get them on par with social workers can be better spent on recruiting and retaining qualified social workers.  Furthermore, such action is unethical and deceptive to the Santa Clara County residents, as you are allowing these individuals to receive services and interventions from a “social worker” who does not have a social worker graduate degree. I’m sure people would similarly be angered if they received services from “nurses” or “doctors” without respective nursing and medical degrees.

Ultimately, this proposal is detrimental to the community, costly to the County of Santa Clara, and diminishes the social work profession’s ability to help those in need. Therefore, I urge you to reconsider this proposal. Furthermore, I encourage you to reach out to groups such as the National Association of Social Workers and San Jose State’s School of Social Work to learn more about the social work profession, establish rapport, and potentially come up with a resolution that works for everyone. Unlike other counties and states who employ non-social workers, Santa Clara County is special because it recognizes the value of the social work profession in serving one of the nation’s most diverse populations. Please do not take a step backwards for the sake of filling vacant slots.
As social workers, we know that we have unique and specialized skills that set us apart from other professions. Hence, for the sake of the people we help, we cannot allow a government institution to steal our title and give it to someone else. If you care about the social work profession, I ask you to help us and reach out to Santa Clara County's Board of Supervisors and fight for title protection. How can we help others when we cannot advocate for ourselves?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Demand For Social Workers Expected To Grow

As I was watching the news recently, I saw this segment on the social work profession.  Nice to see the profession get some non-negative publicity, but I felt the need to repost this video to address some inaccuracies and lack of clarity.

Demand For Social Workers Expected To Grow « CBS Chicago

My thoughts:

1) Where I live, most entry level social worker jobs require a masters degree, though a BSW is sometimes acceptable. Typically, psychology and sociology degrees are NOT acceptable, though I've seen them in case worker and counselor positions. This profession really needs to work on getting some title protection in place, because it's degrading to have non-social workers doing work meant for and done best by people with social work degrees.

2) Anyone with a BSW and MSW can diagnose patients and provide interventions, therefore performing the function of what this report calls "clinical social worker". I mean, I was diagnosing patients as an MSW intern and my BSW friends were doing the same (with LCSW co-signature of course). I think whoever wrote this report meant to describe licensed social workers, who are able to diagnose, intervene, and practice independently. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) are the ones that require 2+ years of experience (3,200 hours in California) and passage of licensing exams.

Anyway, it's nice to see a relatively positive job outlook for our profession. Hopefully the demand for social workers will mean an increase in our wages (as long as non-social workers don't hijack our jobs and as a result keep our wages low).  It's refreshing to know that job stability is something I don't necessarily have to worry about for the next decade!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Price of Sanity

Some of your wonder how I manage to shop, travel, and save as much as I do with a social worker salary. One reason is that I work in the medical social work field, which pays higher than other social work fields. The second is that I live at home. As someone in my early 30s, this is frowned upon by society. However, 1) I come from a culture that expects their kids to live at home until marriage and 2) I live in the Bay Area, where a number of my friends also live at home because of high housing prices. This is the same place that has apartments so expensive that you might as well buy a castle.

Everyone who knows me knows that I've been trying to move out of my parents' house for several years, while at the same time attempting to maximize my retirement savings. The first few years, I started looking apartments only to be discouraged by rental prices. I then entered the home buying market, only to get outbid by upwards of six figure (all cash) offers each time. Now, housing and rental prices are so ridiculous that I've stopped trying (to the absolute joy of my parents/relatives and the chagrin of my sanity). And no, due to my cultural background, moving in with my boyfriend is not an option. Fortunately, he understands as he lived with his parents (despite having an engineering job) for nearly a decade before buying a house of his own.

Living at home in my 30s is not as bad as my teenage years, but can still be quite emotionally taxing. However, I've had opportunities to do things I would not have been able to do if I had my own apartment, such as travel as extensively as I have, eat sushi as much as I do, and grow a savings account enough to buy a decent house in any other part of the country (except maybe New York). I'm also not tied to a specific location due to a lease/mortgage, so if any surprise opportunities arise in the future I can uproot myself with relative ease.

Still, my hope is to somehow move out in the next year and live independently before settling down. If not possible, I may take an extended trip somewhere. While I appreciate the low-cost housing, there are days where I just need solidarity, privacy, and a chaos-free environment where boundaries are actually respected. Coming home from work only to have to listen to your "roommates'" problems without any consideration for your own can be taxing after a few years.

There is a price for sanity, and it's about $1,931 a month plus utilities.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Several weeks ago, one of my bosses offered to supervise my hours for free if I ever decided to pursue my social work license.  While I've been out of grad school for nearly 5 years, I've pretty much brushed the thought aside until now because I didn't have a supervisor and didn't want to pay upwards of $120/session (totaling over $12,000 for 104 one-hour sessions) for sessions from another LCSW.  Especially when getting an LCSW actually does not guarantee a pay raise and I could be in a completely different field in the next few years!

However, the offer to supervise my hours and incorporate supervision into my work day definitely changed things. I always viewed the benefits of social work licensure as being able to gain knowledge, become a more competent practitioner, open a private practice, and work from home (if/when I burn out).  Of course, I'd also use the credential to self-advocate for a pay raise! Knowing that free supervision doesn't come around that often, I got my fingerprints taken, filled out an application, signed a check for the first time in years and mailed it all to the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.  As of this week, I am officially an Associate Clinical Social Worker (ASW) and can start accruing hours!

Given my work hours, I expect it to be between 3-5 years before I have enough hours to take the clinical LCSW exam.  Here's what I have to do between now and then:

1) Gain 3,200 hours of supervised work experience
2) Complete 1 hour of supervision per week, totalling 104 supervised weeks
3) Pass an exam on California Law and Ethics (new as of January 2016!)
4) Complete coursework in the following:
    • Child Abuse Assessment and Reporting
    • Human Sexuality
    • Alcoholism and Other Chemical Substance Dependency
    • Spousal or Partner Abuse Assessment Detection, and Intervention
    • Aging, Long Term Care, and Elder/Dependent Adult Abuse
    • California Law and Professional Ethics
I'm really not in a hurry, and view this process as another option while I figure out my life path.  Hooray for having options!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

VA Social Worker Mocks Veteran Suicides

Last night, I came home from work to find this article trending on my Facebook feed: VA manager's email mocks veteran suicides. Disappointingly, I've found little discussion about this situation among social worker blogs and social media groups. As much as I've hardened myself against negative media attention, I was extremely bothered and angered by the actions of this particular social worker. When one of our own violates our Code of Ethics and embarrasses the entire social work profession, it's something that SHOULD be discussed and examined.

To summarize, the article discusses the outrage over a work e-mail sent by a licensed social worker managing the Seamless Transition Integrated Care Clinic at the VA Medical Center in Indianapolis. In the e-mail, sent over the holidays, an elf is pictured in the following scenarios:
One photo depicts the elf peering between the legs of a female doll. "Trying his skills as a primary care provider (doing a pap)," the email says.
Another shows the elf next to a sticky note with the words, "Out of XANAX — please help!" A caption says, "Self-medicating for mental health issues when a CNS would not give him his requested script."
A third photograph shows the elf hanging from a strand of Christmas lights. "Caught in the act of suicidal behavior (trying to hang himself from an electrical cord)," the email says.
While the VA claims to have addressed the situation, the social worker in question continues to be a manager at the facility to the outrage of various veterans groups. On a personal level, I feel conflicted as to how this social worker remains an employee of the VA. Here's my breakdown on everything wrong with what this social worker did:

First, the picture of an elf performing a pap smear is perverted, unprofessional, and inappropriate. If I ever sent out an e-mail at work with such content, I would likely be accused of sexual harassment.

Second, the picture of the elf with the Xanax sign not only makes fun of individuals with anxiety problems, but also mocks and stereotypes those with benzodiazepine addiction. I doubt that veterans suffering from anxiety, PTSD, or substance withdrawals find it a laughing matter.

Third, the picture of the elf hanging himself angers me so much that part of me hopes that this social worker has her licensed revoked. Yes, I'm willing to go so far as to say that. As any social worker knows, the licensing process is an arduous one that requires thousands of supervised hours, continuing education courses, and passage of licensing exams.  Additionally, moving up the ranks at a VA hospital requires years of work, which more than likely involves providing counseling services to countless veterans. Let's not forget that entry level social work jobs at the VA typically require a masters degree. One would think that someone with this much education and experience would know better.

I'm not licensed, not a manager, and probably haven't been in the field as long as this social worker. However, I've provided counseling services to a fair share of adults, adolescents, and children who have attempted suicide.  I've never found it funny, and struggle with how someone can derive humor from such a situation. We live in a society where mental illness and suicide are stigmatized enough as it is. While platitudes about suicide (i.e. "People who commit suicide are selfish") and jokes about suicide/self-harm from laypersons can be explained, I cannot excuse the same behavior from someone who's spent enough time in social work to obtain its highest licensing credential.

As we all know, social work has a reputation problem. Hence, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard of ethical practice. To quote our Code of Ethics:
The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:
  • service
  • social justice
  • dignity and worth of the person
  • importance of human relationships
  • integrity
  • competence
When one of our own decides to throw that out the window and act in a manner that is completely contrary to the values set forth by our predecessors, then we should all have a problem with it.

At this time, I'd like to ask all of you to reflect and reevaluate your patient/client interactions and how you practice social work. While humor is an important part of managing our stress levels, it should not be at the expense of those we serve.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Social Work Month 2015

Happy Social Work Month!  Even though I've never been a fan of "months" that are meant to raise awareness of certain issues, I guess I'll dedicate one post to Social Work Month. I mean, why must a particular cause be reduced to a one month time span? Why not focus on providing education and awareness of the social work profession year round? Given common misconceptions of our profession within the media and society in general, we could use some advocacy 365 days a year!

Social Work

This year's Social Work Month motto is "Social Work Paves the Way for Change". While all professions have the capacity to help others, the social work profession is unique in that they, as per the NASW Code of Ethics, are specifically mandated to promote societal well-being by addressing social problems and challenging social injustice. Social work is as much about advocacy as it is intervention as we employ our skills in counseling, case management, community organizing, leadership/administration, social action, and research/education to empower our clients and enact change on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

With changes to this nation's healthcare system, an aging baby boomer population, and a volatile political climate, the services and expertise of educated social workers are now needed more than ever.  Often, the media likes to confuse case workers and social service employees as "social workers", thereby diminishing the efforts it takes to become one.  In reality, becoming a social worker is an arduous process, requiring an advanced degree and hundreds of internship hours.  In fact, according to the National Association of Social Workers, 79 percent of practicing social workers have master's of social work (MSW) degrees.  Becoming a licensed social worker can involve thousands of additional supervised hours plus passing costly licensing exams.  Not the best deal, considering the insulting wages social workers receive, however most stay in the field due to their desire to help the less fortunate.

For more information about the social work profession, please go here: About Social Workers  This month, please take an opportunity to educate yourself on the social work profession and thank social workers for their service and dedication.