By Hilary Teply, MSW Intern
As I draw close to the end of the first year of my Masters in Social Work internship, I grew more reflective and have been thinking of all the things that I have learned.
This internship helped me learn in school, since all my coworkers were open to helping and guiding me in understanding the system of care affecting people living in long term care. To this end, I chose many academic projects which reflected my work in the field. This greatly enhanced my learning in the area of older and dependent adults.
I learned about non-profit organization structure when studying organizational theory. OSSMC was kind enough to let me into every part of their life and see the operations, the real-time difficult cases and decisions which must be made, and let me see how individuals were affected by coming into contact with local Ombudsmen.
I was able to see how OSSMC staff works on an individual level. This work impacts individuals and improves their daily lives. As I shadowed the OSSMC staff and received support from them during difficult cases, I noticed the interpersonal communication skill and emotional intelligence which is required by the work. Though we are advocates by name, the work also requires knowing each person’s role, personality, and power, and determining through this how the wellbeing of our client can best be upheld.
I was able to witness OSSMC advocating for elders at a community level. Quite often, staff in the OSSMC engage in outreach activities to share their work and its importance with community members. Whether by speaking with local organizations, hosting informational sessions for perspective volunteers, representing OSSMC with community partners, distributing this blog and other literature about OSSMC, or countless other endeavors and individual conversations, this small staff makes its presence in the community known.
Throughout my time at OSSMC I also witnessed macro level advocacy embedded in the day to day activity of a small non-profit in a way which was entirely new to me. Throughout my education, San Jose State’s social work department has sent a strong message that it is important for every social worker to engage in macro level work and policy advocacy. I just never knew how that would be practical or achievable, when micro practice was what felt comfortable and familiar, and macro practice seemed so complex and time consuming. I see members of the OSSMC office take an interest in macro practice. I watch them sign and send letters to lawmakers, visit state representatives, and advocate at community meetings. This gives me a new perspective on advocacy which is encouraging and empowering.
Watching this office function has impacted every area of practice for me. It has made my responsibilities as a growing social worker seem real and achievable, and has given me a wonderful feeling of camaraderie. No matter where I practice in the field, I know that there is a small but mighty office on the peninsula which is doing its part to advocate for vulnerable populations, and it is making its voice heard at every level.