Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Facebook

I finally created a facebook page! I figured it would be another way to keep people updated on my posts and other news. Please add me here: Cheap Social Worker

(not so) Cheap Social Worker's Guide to Preventing Social Work Burnout

Like many of you, I have days when I come home exhausted, frustrated, and jaded. I wonder why I'm in this field and question whether my work makes a difference. Sometimes, I go as far googling alternate jobs I could do with my MSW. This is when I know it's time for some self-care.

As members of a profession notorious for burnout, we social workers have to be especially conscious of our need for rest and rejuvenation. While people in other fields might find the term funny, "self-care" is essential to keep ourselves physically and emotionally well. That way, we can provide the best care possible to the populations we serve.

Working in a profession that also has a reputation for being lower paying, many of us lack the funds for a fancy vacation or spa treatment. However, this is not an excuse to neglect our self-care regimen. Here are some ideas for caring for yourself while saving a few dollars:

Cheap Tip #1: Go for a walk/jog. Find a scenic area or park and get a little bit of exercise. The release of endorphins will help relieve some work related stress!

Cheap Tip #2: Movie night at home. Grab a movie from Redbox, pop some microwavable popcorn, and have a relaxing night at home! Invite some friends over for more food and fun.

Cheap Tip #3: Treat yourself at a discount. Check out deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. There you'll find discounts on getaways, shopping, spas, and restaurants. Pamper yourself! You deserve it!

Cheap Tip #4: Happy Hour. Most restaurants offer discounted appetizers and drinks during the afternoon hours. Grab some friends or co-workers and wind down after a long work day!

Cheap Tip #5: Take a bubble bath. Turn on some relaxing music, light some candles, and enjoy a soothing soak in the tub. Personally, I like the Mr. Bubble bubble bath from my childhood.

Cheap Tip #6: Sleep early. I know this sounds elementary, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of sleep. If you've had a particularly stressful day, try going to bed a earlier than usual. You'll feel rested and refreshed in the morning.

Cheap Tip #7: Plan a weekend staycation. I am fortunate enough to live near San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and the Napa Valley. Find out what attractions are near your area and plan a weekend trip there. You might discover a new favorite hangout during your adventure!

The next time you feel overwhelmed from work, try one of the tips on this list!

What are you favorite ways to relax when you're feeling some social work burnout? I'm always looking for new self-care ideas myself!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fox's "Touch": A Social Worker's Review

I just finished watching "Touch" and wanted to share my take. Please excuse this hastily written entry!

I've heard about "Touch", Fox's latest sci-fi series featuring a social worker, for months now. According to Social Workers Speak, social workers have worked with the show's producers and actress playing the social worker to ensure an accurate portrayal of the profession. While I wasn't planning to watch this show, reading about it piqued my interest enough to watch the pilot episode. Going into it, I had my doubts about how the social worker would be portrayed. Given the fact that the social worker is your stereotypical child welfare one, I expected the worst.

Honestly, I was surprised. While a quick twitter search seemed to show a number of negative comments about social worker Clea Hopkins, I didn't think the way she carried herself was that bad. Given the information in her file about Jake and his father Mark(and the fact that she lacked the perspective of us omniscient TV viewers), she acted in a manner similar to how I would have if I was in that situation.

What I really enjoyed about this social worker was her characterization as pragmatic, intelligent, and compassionate. While there were some moments I thought she was a little too harsh (as she herself admitted), authoritative, and by the book, Clea seemed to show genuine concern for both Jake and Mark. While she ultimately had to place Jake in a (strangely empty) board and care home, it seemed as if she wanted to see father and son reunited eventually. I could definitely sense the empowerment approach being employed by her, especially as she explained to Mark that his situation was not his fault and that he was a good man. In the upcoming episodes, I'll have to see if I can pick up on more social work theories and modalities of practice.

Nitpicks I have regarding the pilot include the following: First, I was surprised to see the child taken away so easily. Given the lack of resources and foster parents in my state, children are only taken away when they are in immediate danger. The fact that Jake ended up on the radio tower so many times seems more the fault of whoever was babysitting him than the father (who was at work when Jake climbed up there).

Second, did anyone else notice the emptiness of the "board and care" home? Given the cuts to social service programs across the nation, I half-expected the place to be overflowing with children.

Third, I was quite surprised at the amount of time Clea was able to dedicate to Jake's case. At one point, she even left Jake to go on a wild goose chase with his father. I'm pretty sure most child protective social workers lack the time to do something remotely close to that due to high caseloads.

Well, that's my brief take on "Touch". I will probably watch future episodes to see how they proceed with the plot and the characterization of Clea Hopkins.

Did anyone else happen to catch the episode? What are your thoughts on how the social worker was portrayed?

The Body Shop Deal

This past year, I've probably purchased more products at The Body Shop than anywhere else. If you open my bathroom drawers, you'll find a small collection of body washes, hand soaps, lotions, room sprays, and reed diffusers. The Body Shop appeals to me because I like the assortment of scents they carry. It also helps that the company promotes a number of social causes I support.

While I did purchase a ton of stuff from The Body Shop this past year, not once did I pay full price for a single item. In fact, I typically paid less than 50% of full price after accounting for deal of the day vouchers, sales, and discounts from the Love Your Body Club. The great thing was that this left me with extra money to spend on food, or sale items at Bath and Body Works.

For two days, Living Social is offering a $20 voucher to The Body Shop for $10. This may be a great time to stock up if you think you'll need bathroom stuff in the coming months. The Body Shop has sales throughout the year, so make sure to use your voucher then for extra savings! I already purchased mine, so it looks like I might be going shopping sometime soon!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Host a Cheap Sports Party

Football playoff season is in full swing (GO NINERS!), and I plan on spending it on my couch with some drinks and my favorite finger foods. I know that many of you will probably be getting together with friends to catch the big games, so I thought I would offer a few money saving tips on hosting those football get-togethers!

Tip #1: Stay home instead of hitting the bars. Bar food, pints of beer, and mixed drinks are typically more expensive than throwing your own party. Don't forget other hidden costs like tax and tip! Avoid the crowded bars (and drunk drivers), buy a twelve-pack, and cook up some snacks at home!

Tip #2: Check the grocery store ads for deals. Each week, I check the grocery store ads and plan my meals around what's on sale. Grocery stores tend to stock up on snack type foods around football playoffs season, so there's bound to be some deals. Since I am lucky enough to live near several grocery chains, I use the ads to make a shopping list of sale items for each store.

Tip #3: Potluck or BYOB. If you're hosting a party, you're probably already doing tons of work cleaning and cooking. Reduce your stress by having your buddies bring their favorite snacks or beverages. It'll also reduce the strain on your wallet!

Tip #4: Order delivery or get take-out. If you're turned off by the idea of cooking, then pitching in money for delivery or take-out is still cheaper than going out to eat. Make sure to check your Sunday newspaper ads or discount sites like Slickdeals for coupons. If ordering delivery, call in early, as these places tend to get inundated with orders on football Sundays. Don't forget to tip the person delivering the pizza, since he/she is missing the game!

Tip #5: Use leftover snacks for meals in the coming week. One of my favorite ways to use leftover spinach dip is to stuff it in chicken breast and bake it. You can also shred leftover pieces of buffalo chicken and use them in tacos (with your leftover bean dip, salsa, and avocado dip) or pita wraps. With some creativity, you can turn these leftovers into some tasty meals!

Eating is definitely one of my favorite parts of playoff season. With these tips, you'll be able to indulge in those delicious snacks while having some extra money left over for those bets!

GO NINERS!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Once Upon A Time" Bashes Social Work Profession

Normally, I enjoy watching "Once Upon A Time". It's a (somewhat) family friendly show and a creative take on the fairy tale characters I saw in Disney films as a child. For those unfamiliar with the show, here's a one sentence summary: "Once Upon A Time" is the story of what happens when the evil witch from Snow White sends fairy tale characters into our world with no recollection of their previous lives. While I don't normally watch much TV, the story was entertaining enough to keep me coming back each week. Also, unlike medical dramas, I figured I could watch it without cringing at certain professions being portrayed inaccurately... until tonight.

Each episode of "Once Upon A Time" seems to feature a different fairy tale characters, and tonight it was Hansel and Gretel. In short, the protagonist of the story (who spent 16 years in the foster system), Emma Swan, discovers that Hansel and Gretel have no parents. To "save" them from the foster system, Emma finds their father and magically convinces him to take his kids back. If things were that simple, social workers would have much easier and less stressful jobs.

There were two things that especially irked me about this episode. The first was protagonist Emma Swan's rant against the foster system. She basically tells Snow White/Mary Margaret that based on her experience in the foster system, she knows that social services will not help and that children will bounce around unwanted from home to home. While I can't remember the exact quote (or access a copy of the episode/script at this time), I couldn't help but think that Emma's poorly scripted and over simplistic statement mirrored the stereotypes associated with child protective social workers.

The second thing that bothered me was the fact that the wicked witch ended up calling social services. If social workers weren't associated with evil before, then they are now - by one of Sunday's top rated shows, no less. The only redeeming part of this episode was that the cannibal trying to eat Hansel and Gretel ended up not being a social worker!

I've already written to Social Workers Speak about this matter. I understand that there are issues with the foster system and child protective services. However, I do not think that is an excuse to allow the media to continue getting away with bashing our profession. If anything, tonight's episode only demonstrates that the general public (and Hollywood) has little knowledge of what social workers actually do. Social Work Month is coming up, so maybe we as social workers can use the occasion to educate people and work towards improving our image!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hospital Social Workers Receive Positive Media Attention!

While reading Social Worker Speak, I ran across an article that recognized social workers at a Utah hospital for assisting the families of police officers victimized by a shooting. In addition to praising these individuals, this article then goes on to emphasize the importance of hospital social work in providing patients and family members with psychosocial support in what can be a chaotic and overwhelming medical environment. It was my first time seeing hospital social workers discussed in the media, and I'm glad that it was in a positive light!

Part of the reason I can no longer watch medical dramas is due to the fact that they do not accurately portray a hospital setting. Oftentimes, these shows depict doctors taking on the roles of nurse, social worker, physical therapist, pharmacist, nutritionist, occupational therapist, respiratory therapist, medical technician, CNA, etc. What I would love to see is a medical drama that portrays the lives of people in these aforementioned non-MD fields. They could call it "Allied Health". It would be spectacular.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Should We Pick Majors Based on Pay?

Happy New Year, everyone! As I wrote on my other blog, I resolve to post at least once a week this year. Hopefully I can accomplish this goal!

For my first post of 2012, I wanted to expand on discuss an issue I touched on in a previous post - the profitability of our college major. Lately, I've been seeing news agencies and blogs post articles about individuals, including social workers buried in student loan debt and working low paying jobs. I'm sure these issues have been around for years, but I speculate that these news articles have increased in frequency as a result of the recession, high unemployment rates, and indebted college graduates participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

As usual, the comments contained as much vitriol as previous articles on unemployed college graduates. I've heard similar statement among my own circle of acquaintances (many Silicon Valley engineers) with statements like, "Teachers are dumb; that's why they're teachers", "I aced my humanities classes easily, getting better grades than actual humanities majors", and "I worked hard in college while people in [insert major here] partied all the time". With so much negativity against social science and humanities grads, I sometimes can't help but wonder if such stigma will impact these fields in terms of job prospects and student interest.

In China, it seems like social science and humanities majors are already being impacted in terms of funding. While I was out of the country last November, the Wall Street Journal published an article called, "China To Cancel College Majors That Don't Pay". The title is somewhat misleading, as China plans to phase out college majors based on employment rates, not salaries. Now imagine if the U.S. were to implement a similar policy. According to the WSJ article, clinical psychology, fine arts, and U.S. history would be some of the first majors to go. If cuts were made according to median salary, social work would be on that list. Imagine the type of society we would have if subjects like these were eliminated from our schools because they were simply not profitable enough. Maybe the elimination of social work programs would create a severe social worker shortage that would finally raise our salaries to respectable levels!

So, should we pick majors based on pay? Sure, if your goal in life is to become independently wealthy. However, realize that education, as with any other investment, comes with risk. While a job may be profitable now, there's always a chance that things might not turn out as expected. Regardless of what field you decide to pursue, know what you're getting yourself into, and consider the monetary and emotional costs of each major.

Did I pick my major based on pay? Yes and no. The reason I got my MSW had to do with my college experiences and the fact that I wanted to make a living counseling people. I never expected to become rich, and if I wanted to make more money, I probably would have picked a career in nursing or engineering instead. Now if I had the opportunity to study something out of pure passion, I would have majored in music. Fortunately, I do have a job that pays decently and gives me the flexibility to go back and study music if I desired. We'll see how that goes.

How about you? Did you pick your major based on pay? Should college students consider potential pay when picking a major?

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 New Year's Resolutions

Hello, and many apologies for the lack of updates. Between work, family obligations, travels abroad, and the holidays I haven't had much time to work on this blog. Now that things have settled down a bit I hope I can start posting regularly again!

Since it is a new year, I figured it would be appropriate to post my list of 2012 new year's resolutions:

1) Move out of my parents' house
2) Update my blogs at least once a week
3) Go to the gym at least twice a week

I think I'll start with those for now. Better to have a small list of attainable goals than a long list of resolutions I'll probably break. Wish me luck!