Turnover! Get it? OK, I apologize for that one. I was reaching.
Social work has all of the job characteristics that make people run for the hills. (In this instance, “the hills” means “private practice in Westchester.”) The pay is low. The hours are long. The work can be dangerous. It is emotionally and psychologically draining. Clients are difficult. Co-workers are usually twice as crazy.
It’s a tale all too familiar with social workers. You show up your first day. You meet your office mates, the people you’ll be sharing cubicle space with for forty sixty hours a week. You’re shy, hesitant at first. But eventually you let your guard down, perhaps over a yogurt in the counseling space that doubles as a break room. Friend requests are sent and accepted. You begin mocking poking gentle fun at your boss and nuttier coworkers.
And then one day it’s over. That person is leaving for the greener pastures of mental health services, public schools, or whatever it may be. After having your work-heart broken so many times, you stop opening up.
For some reason, though, this only happens with the people you like. The people you can’t stand seem to defy all of the conventional rules and norms, and remain in the same agency for eternity.
It’s not only hard on the workers, of course. The clients are the ones who really have to deal with this.
“OK, here’s your new worker. Get to know her, share your life story and trauma with her. Oh, wait, she got offered another position. No, I can’t tell you where. She’s gone. This is your new, new worker. Why yes, she is six months pregnant. Oh look, there’s the baby. Here’s your interim worker. Why are you looking at me like that? You’ll be fine.”
I remember reading stories about things like this. A social worker being such a part of a person’s life, and then leaving when the worker is still needed. People writing their memoirs of their tough inner-city upbringing and eventual triumph into sports/music/business usually have one or two of these tales to share.
I always said I would never do that. But what choices do we have? Sometimes, it’s time to move on. We can’t wrap up every case before that time comes. We can’t hold on to clients forever, and we shouldn’t want to. There will always be people we could have helped more, or at least wish we could have. Maybe that’s what those workers who stay in the same position forever are thinking. Maybe this is what they’re trying to avoid.
I just hope that whoever has been taking my granola bars out of the fridge moves on damn soon.