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.
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
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.
KL: 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.
KL: 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?
KL: 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.