Amy’s Life in Brief

A dangerous job…
January 7, 2010, 8:34 pm
Filed under: job, MSW, social work, social work practice | Tags: , , ,

In my day to day dealings with patients, I don’t consider my job dangerous. Maybe it’s because, generally speaking, I’m surrounded by people as I work with clients. Nurses and physical therapists are coming in and out. Other patients’ family members are milling around. Help is always seemingly close at hand. That’s not to say that I’m not cautious. I choose my position in the room so that my exit isn’t blocked. I generally don’t sit within an arm’s reach of a patient.

We’ve had a couple of situations recently that have reminded me of how dangerous the practice of social work can be and that danger can reach out to me in my outside life. This has been very difficult for my husband. While my father-in-law isn’t an MSW, he worked for several years as an Adult Protective Services worker for the state. When he was assaulted in the parking lot outside of his workplace by the son of a woman who he had to remove from her home (I won’t go into details but it was a pretty horrific situation), that was when he decided to leave social services and become a contractor and cabinet builder.

Here are a few more examples of violence perpetrated upon social workers…in West Virginia, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Kentucky. You can also go here if you would like a more personal image of violence against social workers. I’m sure there are other cases…these were the ones I found in a quick Google search.

It’s a bit sobering to think of working in a job where you may come across a person who could end up killing you or severely injuring you. It doesn’t change my commitment to the work I do, but it does make me think about the type of jobs I would take in the field now and in the future. How does the threat of violence affect your practice of social work? Or does it affect it at all?


6 Comments so far
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Working in the mental health field, I am conscious of interacting with people who may be unpredictable, impulsive and sometimes unprovoked in their behaviours. It reminds me that there are things out of my control; and to be in the helping profession you often need to take risks like these – and at the same time protect yourself so you can provide a sustainable social work service to your clients. How has it affected your thinking about the jobs you might take up?

Comment by Mel

I highly doubt I would ever take a job that required home visits…that’s probably my main concern about any future job I may take.

Comment by oregonamy1972

I think we always have an awareness of risk in our job, especially when I have to faciliate compulsory hospital admissions in the community. About the worse injury I’ve sustained was when a kettle full of boiling water was poured over my arm (I am still wincing when I think about it) and everyone seems to have stories.. but risk assessment is a massive part of the role and that includes risk to self.

Comment by cb

The day that I was being beaten up by a six-year-old because he did not want to go back to his foster parents after a supervised visit with his mum, I knew I couldn’t remain in that job. I moved on with my job at a Children’s Hospital and am infinitely happier!

Comment by Carolyn Preston

Well, I’m in hospitals most of the time, and they all have real security 24/7 plus the security of being surrounded by others. I feel much safer now then I ever did going out into people’s homes. That being said, you work in the same environment so I guess none of us are immune. Plus, one hospital is out in the boonies and when I’m there, I’m alone. It’s always a bit creepy for me when I head to that one.

Comment by Reas

I have been a social worker for 23 years, and I’ve encountered numerous violent clients and threats to my safety over time. I have never been actually harmed, but I have felt afraid. I’ve learned to recognize that “fight or flight” instinct and to honor it. We have it for a reason! When I was attacked at a client’s home by a Rottweiler trained for that purpose, and when a colleague was victim of a drive-by shooting while visiting a client’s home, I decided I had had enough of in-home services. I now work in an elementary school, which also has it’s share of potentially dangerous parents (and students, sometimes), but I feel safer and I know I made the best choice for myself and my family.

Comment by ksgirl

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