As the weeks are flying by, I’m learning the practical side of being a social worker at our local hospital, a place that often feels completely surreal. Along the way I’m realising how the environment I’m in and the personal stories I hear are very much about new life or change – just as often as they are about the end of life and the finality of death.
It’s an environment that makes me appreciate even more the vividness of nature and the joy of being ‘outside’. A place that reminds me how precious time is. A place that tells me how much we all need to let the menial crap we tend to get worked up about totally slide.
Half way through my Placement now I can appreciate just how much I have learnt in only nine weeks. I’m learning to sit with strangers as they cry, as they attempt to verbalise how much their illness equates to loss, or how different their life looks from a hospital bed. Stories that I want to hear and not only understand, but be able to offer support in some small way; maybe even make some patients laugh for a moment.
More than ever I realise that a sense of humour is necessary for social work, at least it seems essential in a health setting, not only for patients and their loved ones, but for everyone working there. In such an intense clinical environment where people are generally always hearing bad news it can feel too much to take it all on, so the need to lighten the mood feels universal amongst the staff. Privately of course, and not at anyone’s expense, but keeping life, loss and death light seems to become second nature for a lot of the medical team. Sitting with real grief seems to come around often enough.
Planet hospital has also quickly reinforced my long-term beliefs around money, adventure and life choices. It seems that no matter how hard you work your arse off, loads of assets won’t make that much difference in your later years. Sure, you’ll get a better pick of residential care homes if you make it to that stage of life, and a glass of fancy wine with your mashed peas, but you’ll be alright if you haven’t got much either. It seems the love around you and the way you’ve lived your life will be all you’re thinking about towards the end.
No surprises there – but to really see that everyday, feels like a deeper lesson.
Speaking to patients reminds me that following your dreams, saying yes to adventures and not working at something you feel dispassionate about can make all the difference in life. Just as much as you think good genes or healthy living might give you an advantage, a little decadence and poor health choices aren’t always as detrimental as you might think either, so why not enjoy yourself.
Thinking about how much the first half of Placement has shaped the way I look at the health system as a whole makes me appreciate how much more there is to learn. After only studying the theoretical and practical counselling skills of social work before Placement I am more determined than ever to finish my degree and start working in the field.
After another little adventure though!
While I am definitely enjoying this journey I can’t help but start looking forward to our holiday in Colombia, a country that does a good job of reminding me of all the reasons why its good to be alive, quite easily, all by itself.
Here’s hoping you’re also working towards an adventure or an experience that brings you joy.