In my role as a nursing home social worker at Harborside Healthcare, collaboration proved to be crucial. As the only social worker in the building, I frequently found myself educating others about my role. As an advocate for patients and their families, I was placed in the sometimes awkward position of resolving grievances made against the facility and its staff. This position required skills in sensitivity and effective communication. I quickly discovered that people were more willing to discuss issues in an open and honest way when they felt at ease and not on the defensive. For this reason, I made it my personal mission to find out as much as possible about all the various roles within and around the nursing home.
From food service and housekeeping to nursing and rehabilitation therapy, I made a point to meet staff in all department and to ask them to educate me about their jobs. I was able to do the same in return, and as a result, many trustful, close relationships developed.
As the only social worker in the building, I frequently sought out social workers from sister facilities. I worked with another social worker to implement quarterly meetings of all nursing home social workers for Harborside facilities in the state. This meeting became a peer supervision of sorts, allowing us to share issues or concerns and give each other feedback and advice.
While nursing homes and schools are two very different types of environments, there are some important similarities. Depending on school location and size, a school counselor could easily find herself to be the only counselor in a particular school. My experience as the only social worker in a particular setting has helped me gain collaborative skills that will serve me well in developing strong relationships as a school counselor.