I am a social worker at a large public university hospital. When I first began working there I considered myself to be so furtunate to have such a great job. However, as time has gone by the stress has gotten steadily worse. Some days it almost seems unbearable. The program director for the unit I am social worker for said,"We are all bending over backwards to help our patients and its killing us". I agree! There is so much responsibility involved. Then, if I use my professional judgement I get into trouble with TPTB. If I don't use my professional judgement I get into trouble with TPTB. If I do what I am told I get into trouble with TPTB. If I don't do what I am told I get into trouble with TPTB. All I want to do is keep my mouth shut and do my job, but that does not work either. I wake up thinking about how I am going to help my patients get to their appointments, pay their utility bills, get their medication, secure lodging, cope with their illness, settle insurance issues, respect their religious practices, etc. On the unit I work at, we pamper our patients. We treat them like royalty. We do everything for them and all of that usually ends up in my lap at some point and time. I have to battle heavy traffic going to and from work-adding two hours to my commute. The pay is alot better than my last job. The beneifts are fine. Retirement is good. Yet, I stay stressed almost all the time. I was at work Friday til 7:30 pm. A caregiver had sent me two e-mails that were basically blasting me out of the water for the way I was handling the patient's case. All I could do when I read those e-mails was to sob. Then, after I pulled myself togehter I took great pains to word my response to the caregiver. The caregiver said that I had caused her and her family great pain. I just could not handle that. I have been so depressed all weekend over it. The caregiver said that she is going to make copies of my e-mail for her family and discuss it with the program director. So...I guess that I will be getting into trouble again...for doing what I was told to do. It is easy to say,"Just get another job". This thing is that the only ones available are part-time. Being single, I have to have a full time job. Some of the other social workers have said for months that they have been looking for another job and haven't found one. All of the social workers have tried discussing the issues with TPTB, but they are too busy crunching numbers. I have no life. On the weekends, I am so emotionally drained that I have no energy to do anything. I am depressed, I have insomnia, I am stressed. TPTB=the powers that be
Now the easiest thing for people to say would be to quit this job and get another one. But living in the real world, we know that isn't always possible. So now, you have to look at every aspect involved and see what is best.
Let's look at the big picture. You said continuously that you are STRESSED, that you just can't win (nothing you do is right, everything you do is wrong) and that you are suffering physicaly and mentally. Here's some things to ask yourself: Is "this" full time job worth it? Is it possible to maybe get two part time jobs? When things aren't going badly, how much do you care for this job? If things start going better, would this job be worth it?
I had a similar job, working at a youth center on a military base. I dealt with children ages 6-15 daily and believe me that can become very overwhelming at times. I love children and they were a blast to work with. But due to factors such as "special needs", family abuse, emotional problems due to parents going off to war, three near car accidents (due to soldiers late for PT) and bad management, the job got way to stressful. Not to mention that I had to drive 35 miles in the middle of nowhere (desert) to get to work and back home every day. My work hours would run from 5:30 am to 5:30 pm twice a week, with a 4 hour lunch in between and 45 minute drives to and from work. So basically, twice a week, I was out of my home from 4:30 to 6:30. It was terrible on my fiance. I had a bad attitude from work and brought it home with me during the few hours we had together. I waited it out until after we got married because the job paid really good. But after a year and a half of H@#L, I began suffering from it. I had constant headaches, which turned out to be caused by high blood pressure. I am only 25. I also got insomnia really badly and reached the point where I was just never happy. So I gave up the job and found a part time job in town. I figured that it was much better to lose some of the money (though we needed it), then to put my life in jeopardy or cause unneccessary anguish.
Basically, I think you know what you should do. You stressed that you are in the process of looking towards other jobs. I think you should persue it and see what happens. What it all boils down to is - you can either keep going down the path you are going and be miserable and possibly cause health problems associated with stress, or you can quit this job and find something you can enjoy life at. Good luck!
I don't know what to say except that I can feel your pain through your words and you're not alone. Also, you are doing such important and admirable work for people out there who need the help. Keep your chin up.
I know I'm not being much help but just wanted to say to hang in there..
Dear Countrygirl : I am a social worker in a large, Level II Trauma and teaching hospital working mostly in rehab and mostly with patients with traumatic brain injuries or other neurological problems. The only thing I can say is that there are days when I just don't feel there is enough of me to go around and, that if I get pulled in any other direction I will go crazy. I have laughlingly suggested that I should quit this job and get something easier, like Hospice work, AIDS counseling, or selling Yankee candles. But you know the drill, there's not enough money, not enough resources, family's can't bear to live with the "new normal", and insurance companies breathing down my neck. However, and maybe this works for you, every once in a while someone will thank me, acutally call me up, send me a card, or see me in the hallway and thank me for what I've done. It's just barely enough to keep me coming back day after day, but it is just barely enough and "barely enough" sometimes is sufficient.
Oh, yeh, the stress related issues? I was in cardiac care and had to have a cardiac cath when I managed the department and JCAHO was due. (Cardiac results? Nothing big.) The headaches are relieved with large doses of Excedrin and acupuncture treatments twice a month. I don't have any finger nails. And I can't stand waking up in the middle of the night wondering if I've done everything I could for somebody.
Bless your heart, countrygirl, we must really love the abuse. I have a wonderful friend, a retired social worker, who once told me "we never get enough of that which we don't need." How true! How true! chris
Last edited by last1; 12-05-2005 at 08:02 PM.
Thanks Chris! I just can not stand the awful feeling of wondering if I am doing enough. It is never enough. So many people in so much need. There are so many insurance papers to fill out. Today I got a call from someone whose check was reduced because I did not get her insurance papers and documentation to the company on time. She was crying and I started crying. I faxed copies to the company. Hopefully, they will raise her check again. I just feel that I have no right to be happy when I have caused such harm to that woman. Right now, I feel like all I do is hurt people. So much responsibility! My concentration is bad. My memory is bad. My office is so tiny and so cluttered I have trouble finding important papers-even when I have put them in a special place. Every task seems like it is insurmountable. I can't stand hurting people! There are never enough resources to go around. People expect and I can't always deliver. I am going for a sleep study in a couple of hours. Maybe I can get some help with my sleep.
I know that this is really hard for your to consider, but have you given thought to changing jobs or careers. Understanding that your job seems to require so much emotional energy from you and, assuming that you want to continue to be a social worker, could you consider finding another area of social work that would be less stressful and more satisfying?
As I said I, too, work in a large hospital and one of the things that has always been difficult for me is "establishing boundaries." But, the part that I do enjoy about being in a medical setting is that the patient is always discharged from the hospital and I don't "own" the patient.
Anyway, would you consider another line of social work? chris
Chris, Thank you for your concern. I have tried changing careers. However, I was always told that I was over-qualified. Also, I have tried to get a social work job in a different line of social work. I did not have any luck with that. Maybe it could have been that the perspective employer was trying to find a social worker with a particular type of social work experience. I feel like I am saying,"Yes, but...". I am not doing so intentionally. Last night I had a sleep study and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Maybe the effects of untreated sleep apnea is what is adding to the stress. Also, my perfectionistic tendencies come out. I just hate not being able to do my best all the time. I can not accept that I am only human. I have set my boundaries. Yet, there are times my boundaries conflict with someone else. You know what happens then...
I'm not a social worker, I work for a high-tech company (director position) and I can understand what you're going through. Having so much on your shoulders can be debilitating. There were nights when I'd come home after putting in 16 hours at work and I'd just crash on my bed, suit & all and without dinner and I'd wake up the next day wearing the same suit I'd worn yesterday.
This is what I did to eliminate the stress, although looking for another job is the only solution that I can see in your situation. First I took a long vacation, so long, I ran out of vacation (sabbatical), then I eliminated some of the items I had on my plate upon my return, then delegated some of the "light" duties to my managers. The stress is still there, but not as bad. There are still days that I want to walk out and quit, but I bought a sports car instead.
All I can say Countrygirl is life is too short. We all have an expiration date and to me, that's enough for me to take long vacations and see the world and do things I want to do. You have some thinking to do and I know it's hard. I'm still going through some things and I know if I don't quit soon, my job will kill me.
Dear Countrygirl and Fabat: Fabat - I really like what you said about "we all have an expiration date"...it is an interesting way to look at things. I've been a manager and I hated it and for me, returning to social work, in the same hospital was a life saver.
However, countrygirl, you need to listen to Fabat, you are killing yourself adn the problem is, in part, as much as the job weighs heavily on your shoulders (over which you may have little control) so does that way you perceive yourself in your job (over which you have a great deal of control). So, maybe being a type B is better for you that a type A. chris
Countrygirl- You took the words out of my mouth, I'm a clinical social worker for mentally ill adol living in residential. I feel the same way-falling apart, too much stress at work, tired, cant sleep, cant concentrate, no memory, too drained for a social life...but here'smy advice, if you want to stay there (it might be time to look for another agency) get support/supervison at work and you NEED to have your own therapist!!!!! Watch your boundaries, do not "take" clients home with you (emotionally) leave them at work and walk into your house fresh with a new out look and a good self-care plan. Go out with friends or coworkers (but dont talk about work), make a list of things you enjoy doing and try to get to them daily! eat right, sleep, exercise, take breaks, day trips, explore, do things you love (read, play w/ kids, pets, bubble bath, sing, dance, get a message, journal, call old freinds, allow yourself to cry, read, pray, meditate, listen to music, watch inspiring movies, or comedy on TV, find time to be sexual, etc.) SAY NO WHEN YOU NEED TO, STRIVE FOR BALANCE IN YOUR LIFE, AND HAVE SUPPORT!
Thank you all for your responses. Change is hard for me, but as Fabat said,"life is too short". It may take awhile to find another job, so I need to find coping strategies to use til then. After reading over all of these posts and really thinking about it, I have not set boundaries the way I wanted to think I had. However, as you social workers know-setting boundaries is not the easiest thing to do and hold to. Today I just started laughing at myself for different things. For ex. if someone asked me for something and I could not find it, I just made a joke about it. I ended up finding whatever-eventually. That is one thing I need to do more-laugh.
Look at what this job is doing to you, do you really feel it's worth it? Everyone gets upset from time to time on there Job, that's normal but when it happens allot and it taking over you life, that is not good. I had a Job about 6 years ago that made me very unhappy, we had gotten a new supervisor, this woman was a night mare, about 30 people quit and I was one of the last three people who were still there when she took the position. I had gotten pneumonia and was out of work for 5 days, when I can back all she did was yell at me for not being there, never asked how I was nor did she care, that was the finial straw, I gave a 2 week notice to human resources that day, They begged me to stay but I said no way, I was so done with that boss and you let her get away with such bad behavior.
I would start applying other places, make it you New Years Resolution, Don't let this Job destroy your life and happiness