March is Social Work Month — “an opportunity for social workers across the country to turn the spotlight on the profession and highlight the important contributions they make to society,” according to the National Association of Social Workers.
At Farmington Presbyterian Manor, our own director of social services has the distinction of being the youngest member of our leadership team. Rachel Campbell says her age is something of an advantage when it comes to working with older adults.
“I am younger, so I think a lot of the residents think of me like their grandkids,” Rachel said. “They look at me as family and not just a worker, and that makes it feel more like home.”
In February, Rachel celebrated her first anniversary on staff at Presbyterian Manor. When she joined us, she had just earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and was planning to start on her master of social work degree right away.
Throughout school, Rachel had worked for Belgrade State Bank, and it would have been easy to stay on there, she said. “I was torn, because I knew I still needed my master’s and the bank was flexible. But I was ready to be done with that chapter in my life,” she said.
She applied for social work openings at Presbyterian Manor and one other employer. “I couldn’t even see myself at the other place now. It all fell into place.” Not only has she been able to go to grad school after all, Rachel also received a scholarship from the Emily Huff Gantner Memorial Scholarship Fund for Presbyterian Manor employees.
Rachel said she was initially interested in the field of psychology and behavioral health. Social work, however, seemed like a more marketable degree – but she also discovered it had a lot of the same appeal to her as psychology. She especially likes finding alternatives to medication for residents such as counseling or calming routines. “Some people do need medication, but I really like the idea that we can help them in other ways,” she said.
In long term care, the social worker is also responsible for handling resident concerns, together with the ombudsman. Sometimes she is just making sure that residents’ basic needs are met.
“I have excellent people. They are so nice and lovely, they are like grandmas and grandpas to me. I think the most appealing thing about working in a nursing home is the residents. It’s like a little family,” Rachel said.