Michelle Blakeney always knew she wanted a job where she could work directly with people and have a positive impact on their lives.
“I think I always knew I wanted to be a social worker even though I didn’t know the full extent of the role. I’ve always been very people-oriented,” she says. “I believe being from a rural area (Shelburne) inspired me to do it. I saw the lack of resources in my community and I wanted to advocate for people.”
During her first year at Mount Saint Vincent University, Michelle took a course in gerontology, the study of aging, and was immediately hooked.
“I just knew there was a need to support and advocate for seniors,” she says.
“As I worked with seniors, I realized I wanted to enhance their quality of life even more and I knew I could do that with social work.”
Michelle enjoys new learning opportunities and has completed courses focused on senior-related issues like palliative care and dementia. She embraced the chance to work at the QEII Health Sciences Centre for her current placement that finishes in April.
As a second year social work student, Michelle says she’s learning another set of valuable skills.
“In terms of being a social worker in a health centre, I can say it’s different from working in the community,” she says.
At the QEII, healthcare social workers are specially trained to assist patients and families to cope with life changes, and stress, which can result from trauma, illness, or disability. Social workers can provide assistance during a patient’s hospital stay, throughout the clinical treatment process and during their transition back home.
“Working with a professional team we address issues of stress, concerns and conflict. We are there as counselors and as mediators. We are there to advocate for the patient and the family,” Michelle says.
“An important aspect of this is helping to remove the barriers that exist. We determine what those barriers are surrounding why someone can’t go home and we try to remove them by using our tool kit and identifying available resources in the community.”
When Michelle graduates in Spring 2015, she expects the lessons she has learned as a social work student at the QEII will prove invaluable.
“There are so many skills you need as a social worker, and I’m learning so much here,” she says. “I think the most important thing to always remember is it’s important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s a lot of crisis intervention, mediation and active listening. Often what can be the most effective is listening.”