Hospice: 10 Things Patients and Families Need to Know

Hospice is a care philosophy that focuses on maximizing the quality of life as opposed to the quantity of life. Hospice may incl...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Non-Monetary Costs of Commuting

Sorry for the lack of updates! I've had one day off this past week and haven't had much time for anything else but working, commuting, and sleeping. I'll try to post a more substantial update when I actually have more than one day off.

In the meantime, I'm going to use this post to talk about commuting. Currently, I commute between 25-50 miles one way each day to get to a given hospital. This allows me to continue to live at home and save some money. However, I've concluded that there are a number of non-monetary expenses associated with long commutes. These include the following:

-Time: I spend roughly 2-4 hours each day commuting. By the time I get home, I don't have much time to do anything other than eat, shower, watch baseball/exercise/blog/surf the net/work on hobbies/talk to my boyfriend online (more or less simultaneously depending on my energy level), and sleep.

-Sleep: I try to get about 8 hours of sleep a night, but normally I only manage 7 hours or less because there's simply too much I want to do once I get home. Typically, I have about 4 hours of time after getting home before having to be asleep. Either I have to rush to get everything done, neglect a few items off my "to do" list, or stay up a few extra hours. Depending on how little sleep I get during the week, I spend a good portion of the weekend sleeping.

-Housekeeping: My room is a mess. My bathroom is certainly not as clean as I want it to be. While I probably should prioritize housework, I'd rather spend my free time after work doing something fun and/or relaxing.

-Exhaustion: Long commutes are tiring. Most days, I'm too tired to do anything once I get home from work. In fact, my typical routine is to get home, change my clothes, eat some dinner, and flop down on my bed.

-Safety: Driving is scary. More than once I've seen near accidents occur. Additionally, there have been times when I've had to pull over to nap because I've started to doze off behind the wheel. While riding the subway is less scary, it also doubles my commute time. Furthermore, I've been harassed by people on the subway demanding money or use of my cell phone. On top of that, I worry about the bacteria on the plush subway seats and sometimes wonder if I'll ultimately contract MRSA that way.

While I do saving lots of money by commuting, it seems like I am sacrificing a lot more. I suppose in come cases I am putting myself at risk for some steep monetary expenses, such as health bills and accident repair costs. The more I think about it, the more moving makes sense to me. Currently, I am in the process of looking at apartments closer to my multiple jobs. I'm definitely looking forward to the shorter travel times! In the meantime, I think it's time to go to bed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Book a Cheap Trip to Las Vegas

Since I'm fortunate enough to have flexible per diem jobs, I've managed to schedule a week of vacation at the end of this month. So far, my plan is to fly to Las Vegas with some friends and spend a few days relaxing and having fun! I didn't want to spend too much on this trip, and thanks to some shopping around and early planning I'm spending less than $150 on housing and airfare!

Here are some tips on how you can save money on a trip to Las Vegas (which can also be applied to other locations):

-Shop around and book early: I cannot stress this enough. When I decided I wanted to go to Las Vegas, I immediately started searching travel websites like Expedia, Priceline, Kayak and comparing rates. My friends and I decided to book a room at a hotel located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip for $24.50 a night. The next day, the price went up to $27.00. Today, the same room is $33 a night. By booking early, you ensure you have a room and extra spending money to spend on money and shopping! I'm pretty pleased that I'm paying less than $7 a night to stay in a themed Las Vegas hotel after splitting the cost with my friends.

-Schedule your vacations during weekdays and non-holidays: Weekday hotel room rates tend to be significantly cheaper than weekend and holiday rates. When booking my hotel I noticed that the Friday night rate was $125, a whopping $25 more than the total cost of the four weekday nights I'm staying. Weekends and holidays also tend to be more crowded at popular tourist locations, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. Personally, I'd prefer to save some money and not wait in line when I use that said money on shows and buffets!

-Use budget airline companies: Search Slickdeals deals being offered by major airlines. Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America tend to offer reasonable fares, and Spirit Airlines offers low cost ticket prices for people who travel light and don't mind skimping on certain services. I'll be writing a review of Spirit Airlines at a later date.

By using these tips, I've managed to book a trip to Las Vegas that leaves me extra money in my budget to spend on other things. Knowing this definitely leaves me more relaxed, as opposed to worried about paying for the whole thing. I can't wait for my vacation!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Social Work: Where Workplace Violence is the Norm, Not the Exception

In Major League Baseball, fights such as last night's bench clearing brawl between the Giants and the Phillies are not the norm. Contrarily, workplace violence is a risk faced by social workers on a daily basis.

Since entering the work force a little over a year ago, I've been bitten/chased by dogs, exposed to a multitude of diseases, threatened with physical harm, assigned to unsafe neighborhoods, and called to deal with aggressive individuals. I know that as I continue my career as a medical and home health social worker, I'll inevitably encounter many more risky situations. While I try to be aware of my surroundings and take precautionary measures (such as keeping pepper spray in my purse during home health visits), there are those scary moments when I find myself thinking, "Please don't hurt me!"

Here are a few things I've done in an attempt to minimize my risk at work:
-Carry pepper spray with me during home visits
-Inform friends and family when I'm going to be doing a home visit, and asking them to call me after a set amount of time
-If possible, position myself in an area near a door so I can escape if necessary
-Ensure that Cody Gray situations are stabilized before attempting to see the patient

Another thing I might do that someone recommended is purchase a white lab coat with "Social Worker" embroidered on it to use for my home health job. Since individuals associate white lab coats with the medical profession, outsiders will likely be less suspicious when I pull up for a visit. In fact, I've heard stories of social workers in white lab coats that have had gang members protect their cars during house appointments with family members.

How do other social workers out there minimize risk during home visits? What tips/recommendations do you follow when it comes to keeping safe on the job? I'd certainly like to hear your input!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I finally signed up for a Twitter account! Feel free to add me for the latest updates: Follow me on Twitter!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How the Debt Ceiling Deal Affects MSW (and other Graduate) Students

After much political drama, the House of Representatives has finally passed the Budget Control Act of 2011, meant to stop the U.S. government from defaulting on its payments to U.S. government bondholders. This bill is bound to have many impacts, but for this particular post I will focus on Title V and its affects on graduate students, especially future social workers.

Title V consists of several parts:

$17 Billion to Save Pell Grants: According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Budget Control Act of 2011 will allocate $17 billion towards the Federal Pell Grant Program in the next 3 years. The Pell Grant Program provides financial aid to low-income undergraduate and certain graduate students who likely would not be able to afford college otherwise. Unlike loans, these grants do not need to be repaid.

Elimination of Federal Direct Stafford Loans for Graduate Students: Currently, college students with financial need are allowed to receive $8500 in subsidized loans a year. These are loans where interest is paid for until 6 months after graduation. Starting July 12, 2012, graduate students will only qualify for Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loans, which accrue interest while students are still in school. According to the CBO report, this will save $18.1 billion in the next 10 years.

Elimination of Incentives for On-Time Loan Payments: Subsidized and unsubsidized loans have a 1% origination or activation fee. Currently, students only have to pay 0.5% - half the fee - which is refunded if they make 12 on time monthly loan payments. Under the new bill, this fee will no longer be refunded. According to the CBO, this will save $3.6 billion in the next decade.

As a social worker, I find myself asking many questions. Is saving the Federal Pell Grant Program worth the financial hardship that will inevitably be faced by numerous graduate students as a result of higher loan payments? How will this affect the social work profession in the long run? Considering that an MSW's salary is much lower when compared to other professions with the same training/education level, will increased loan payments cause those interested in social work to pursue careers in more lucrative fields?

Seems like there might be some hard times ahead for students. The amount of barriers students face these days make me thankful that I was able to finish school when I did. My thoughts are with those who will be seriously impacted by this new budget bill.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Tiger Mom: Revisited

Lately, I've been reading the blog of Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, Amy Chua's daughter. Not only is Sophia obviously intelligent and hard working, but to my surprise also appears to be creative, witty, personable, and well-rounded. She also seems to have a great relationship with her mother, and is genuinely thankful for the way she was raised.

In several interviews following the release of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", Amy Chua stated that her book was meant to be a satire. After reading Sophia's blog, I'm more inclined to believe that Amy Chua exaggerated parts of her book and that she really wasn't that strict at all (relative to how I was raised). To compare, when I was Sophia's age I was not allowed to have a job, have a boyfriend, wear clothes that stylish (or even shave my legs), have my grades drop from from an A+ to A, and not major in anything but pre-med. Additionally, I have yet to read about Sophia or her sister Lulu receiving physical punishment for poor performances or disagreeing with their parents. It really seems that Amy Chua did allow her daughters some liberty in their lives.

While reading Sophia's blog, one entry of interest was when she discussed her trip to China. Here, Sophia talked about how many Chinese readers viewed the "comic list of 'things [she and sister Lulu] were never allowed to do' as the new 10 Commandments". Furthermore, she described the Chinese translation of her mother's book as "totally literal and devoid of humor". In fact, author Amy Chua had to correct the misconception that she was some sort of education expert, telling her daughter, "How am I supposed to defend a position? I don't have a position! This is just my life!" and later defending the merits of the American education system.

Sophia and her mother seemed surprised at the Chinese reaction to "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". However, I knew that this was going to happen from the moment I read the initial Wall Street Journal article. From the beginning, my biggest criticism of Amy Chua's book (in addition to the flashbacks I've experienced from reading about it) has been that despite its comedic nature, many parents will miss the humor and use it as a parenting guide. As illustrated by Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, it seems as if a number of parents now view Amy Chua as a parenting expert and her book a "how to" guide on how to raise academically successful children.

As someone still recovering from the strict Tiger Parenting described in the most extreme parts of "Battle Hymn", it saddens me to think about the children that will be subject to this type of parent style as a result of this book. While no one can deny that Tiger Parenting produces individuals like Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, what happens to those that, for whatever reason, cannot meet their parents' high expectations? Is success at all costs really worth the potential consequences? I can only hope that most parents that read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" see it as the biographical satire it's meant to be.