Non-Family Support Systems

"Social work is clerical, while nursing is clinical."

"Nurses have to give medication, set up IV, clean bodily waste, spend the whole day being waitress to a patient, and deal with difficult family on top of that. We can do the job physical therapy, pharmacy, phlebotomy, respiratory therapy, and social work. This is why nursing pays more than social work, even with your masters degree. Your job is easier than ours."

These two quotes came from my mom while we were have a discussion on why nurse case managers make more than social workers when they do the same discharge planning duties (though my mom missed the fact that I was referring to nurse case managers, not floor nurses). My mom views the different medical professions as part of a hierarchy, with doctors at the top, nurses one step below, and everyone else beneath the nurses. According to my mom, salaries should also be based on this same hierarchy.

When it comes to nurse and social worker salaries, I doubt I'll ever convince my mom that nurses and social workers should earn comparable wages. In fact, I'm almost inclined to agree with my mom that nurses deserve higher wages for their vast medical knowledge (which I lack) and physically/emotionally taxing and gross working conditions. I for one would not want to clean the commode of a c-difficile positive patient.

However, it pains me to have my mom continue to look down on me because I have an "easier job" than hers. In the past, I thought about leaving medical social work because of the burnout caused from having to deal with my mom's opinions. Switching to another sector of social work is still an option, but I currently enjoy the flexibility, excitement, and higher-than-average wages offered by working in a hospital setting. Moving is also another option once I find the right place at the right price.

In the meantime, I continue to live a home, which does have its benefits. I have saved a lot, and my parents don't seem to mind having me around (since their culture doesn't believe in kids moving out until marriage). I think the worst part about the whole thing is the lack of family support I get when it comes to my job, which can be extremely difficult given the importance of support systems in preventing social work burnout. Between my family telling me that I'm a failure for not being a doctor/lawyer/engineer, that social workers are "worthless", and/or that social work is "easy", I've learned that I can't rely on any family members for support.

How have I managed without family support? It certainly hasn't been easy. However, upon some self-reflection, I realize that I've always had a knack for finding support systems such as friends, acquaintances, online forums, etc. Here's a list of places I've found the most comfort in lieu of my family:

-My boyfriend: I'm lucky enough to have a significant other that tries to comfort me as I ramble incessantly about random happenings at work. While he is extremely supportive, I've been working on toning down the ranting and focusing on happy things when I see him. Talking about stressful work situations after a stressful work week probably gets old, and certainly isn't the best way to spend a date night.

-My co-workers: I've been lucky to have extremely supportive co-workers (both nurse case managers and social workers). The best part is that we can relate to the stressful situations associated with discharge planning. It's great to decompress with them, especially after a difficult discharge.

-Social work friends: Similarly, my social work friends and I can relate one another pretty easily. When we get together for dinner, we often spend the evening talking about our respective jobs and challenging situations that arise. However, one problem is that we typically end up talking solely about social work related problems. On more than one occasion, I've gone home thinking that all my friends are underpaid and hate their jobs. Additionally, non-social work friends who are present end up feeling confused and left out.

-Non-social work friends: Non-social work friends are great to hang out with, especially on days when I want nothing to do with social work. When it comes to talking about my job, though, they tend not to understand what I do.

-Social Media: Writing on blogs (such as this one), facebook, twitter, etc. can be cathartic. When my personal circles aren't there I know that there is someone that can relate to me online! However, I'm careful about what I post on social media (especially facebook), since that catharsis can turn into conflict if the wrong person reads it! Fortunately, my mom can barely check her e-mail. I should be okay... for now.

Who do you rely on for support? How do you deal with people who don't support what you do? I'd like to hear your opinions!


  1. As a social worker, I can completely relate to the phenomenon of getting together with your social worker friends and then getting caught up in social work talk. It's difficult to find who we are outside of this profession because we are so completely dedicated to the profession. I'm not sure my mom is supportive of what I do either (evident by the fact that she didn't know what I'm getting my Masters in until this April [I'm almost done]). My partner is a big help (he's in a somewhat related field). And oddly enough, practicing a lot of mindfulness helps me as well. When I'm getting frustrated or upset, I notice what those feelings are and name them, and try not to become intertwined with them.

    1. Hi Lisa, and thanks for reading my blog!

      I definitely agree with you about social workers having a hard time finding who they are outside the profession. It's especially difficult when people around you attack the profession (whether as a whole or individuals within the profession). In many ways, it's hard not to interpret it as a personal attack. I do like your idea of using mindfulness. It does seem like a great way to help with stress reduction and coping.

      Congratulations on being close to finishing you Masters degree. It's a great accomplishment, and never let others tell you otherwise!


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