Spotlight on Social Work: HEALS Recipient Katherine Lord

While planning out your academic future, you may want to explore what health care careers have to offer for internships and experience. For those planning to get a graduate degree in social work, there is a considerable amount of time you need to spend in the field before you can graduate with your Master’s degree. MSW programs include a minimum of 900 hours of supervised field instruction or internship. What do these hours look like for a social work student? Katherine Lord discusses her experience and path in her health care education. (EHC): Thanks for your time! Let’s start with what inspired you to enter the healthcare field. How did you decide on getting involved with social work?
Katherine Lord (KL):
Growing up I was exposed to therapy and interventions in that realm. I majored in business and then the hospitality. I kept seeing people come in and they come in with their baggage from their lives and how it impacted their work. People weren’t trained to handle those issues. When you come into work, you are coming to work as a full human – so businesses need to work on how to handle this.

I talked to a friend about this and getting this training in – and she suggested social work. I was then looking into manage people and in the workplaces. In graduate school, my path changed a bit. I started with Denver Urban scholars and worked with at-risk youth, which I loved. And I love working with policy and clinical. Right now, I am working at a primary care clinic in Boulder, CO. I am working on my micro skills with clients and patients as well as systems-level work. I want to work in the health care field

EHC: Please briefly describe your current position and where you are located.
KL: It’s an internship – HEALS (Health care and leadership scholarship), I applied to and received. It’s a program where we work in healthcare settings and participate in a policy conference in the spring. As part of this – I was working with Boulder Community Health. They offer behavioral health and primary care. I intern as a behavioral health analyst at Northwest Family Medicine. Everything from drug addiction to suicide risk. It’s an amazing system, but then they show signs of depression and they want to talk to someone and have me talk to them. It’s called a warm handoff so I can talk to them about their mental and behavioral health. I will see them anywhere from 1 -6 times over a few months and teach mindfulness and breathing tools. I can also connect them with other resources in the community.
I didn’t know this program existed 2 years ago and now I love it.

EHC: What advice do you have any tips for students interested in going into the social work field?
Reason to go into social work was how good management is good social work. I feel like for people who are interested in any helping profession. Social work gives a broad perspective and education and you can take it anywhere. If I went into another field in the future – my social work background has given me better skills to do well in any profession. If you get your social work degree you can become a teacher, social worker, policy social worker. The CEO of Coca-Cola was actually having a social work background – and got there because he was interested in the people who worked at all of his plants and learned from that.

This is an amazing frontier for those who work in health care and outside of health care. There is so much integration with any a workplace.

EHC: What do you wish you knew before you chose to study this field?
I wish I knew how much my heart would melt. I feel connections and empathetic to everyone I meet. If I see someone who looks like they are struggling – I can’t turn away. I think if they are getting help if they are getting support from work. I am more aware and more affected by what I see in the world. I see the pain of people differently so I could prepare myself more.

EHC: Are there any classes, programs, or activities that aren’t directly related to social work that has helped you succeed in this healthcare career?
To do this work – you have to care for yourself. I would go to my classes and learn so much about myself and my family. And checking in with yourself is important. I encourage anyone to go to therapy so that you can learn about what makes you thrive so that you can help others.

I also have an active lifestyle that helps me. It helps my lifestyle. I turn up the dial on my own self-care so I can be there and present when others need me. We are always going to have lots going on, but you have to prioritize what is going on with you.

EHC: How do you stay up to date on happenings in the healthcare field?
KL: Boulder Community Health sends out a daily email called The Scoop. It fills me in on what’s happening in my community and in my center. In the broad spectrum, I am in the health and health care class and using handbooks that gives me all the information about the field. I keep it on me whenever I go out. I also get all the updates from my colleagues and mentors that tell me what is going on in the medical field.
Are you interested in learning more about the social work field? Take a look at some of our other interviews with a child welfare social worker, a social work doctoral student and a  veterinary social worker.

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