Each year in March, the nation observes National Social Work Month, placing a spotlight on social workers and their contributions to our society. The Wilf Campus for Senior Living is fortunate to have the social workers that we do on our team. For 2020, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has chosen the theme, “Social Workers: Generations Strong.” To honor these professionals and their generations of contribution to our society, we decided to sit down, Q&A style, with two of the Wilf Campus’ own social workers and one of our current social work interns to find out what the field means to them.
Lori Dillon, Social Worker – Stein Hospice
Lori Dillon has been with Stein Hospice since December of 2010. Prior to joining the Wilf Campus, she spent time working at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ – where she was an administrator in their geriatrics department. After receiving her Master’s in social work at Rutgers University, Lori was a Palliative Care Social Worker with Capital Health systems in Trenton for 15 years. She also has a NASW certification in Hospice & Palliative Care.
Q: You’ve been in the field for quite some time, Lori. What does your job here at Stein Hospice consist of now?
A: Honestly, it consists of a lot. Psycho-social evaluations, family planning meetings; really just helping patients and their families through end-of-life care. There are a lot of challenges and anxiety that come with end of life care, and I’m here to help them in any way — whether it be helping them complete one of the many difficult forms that are required, providing resources, or providing emotional support and counseling to patients and families.
Q: Helping multiple people through all the components of end-of-life care must be a lot to juggle. How do you maintain enthusiasm for your work and avoid burnout?
A: Having a self-care plan in place is a requirement in this field. It’s important to have a strong foundation of self, be able to deal with crisis, and be emotionally and spiritually grounded.
Q: How has the field changed over the years? What are your hopes for the future?
A: There’s a change in the environment and a lot of new barriers to care. Electronic medical documentation has also become a big challenge. We really need more social workers in the field. As for the future, one thing that’s important to me is that we preserve the memory of this generation of holocaust survivors. Soon, there won’t be any left. Working with this population has taught me a lot about what they’ve been through. It’s important that we keep education going and keep telling their stories well after they’re gone.
Marnie Kean, Social Service Coordinator – Wilentz Senior Residence
Marnie Kean brings 26 years of social work experience to the Wilf Campus. She holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Before joining the Wilentz Senior Residence in 2015, Marnie had served in roles as both an Older Adult Intake Coordinator and Elder Care Social Worker. Her career has been heavily centered on supporting both the senior and Jewish populations. Today, Marnie provides social services and support to a 100 apartment residence consisting primarily of low-income seniors at the Wilf Campus’ Wilentz Senior Residence.
Q: What made you want to enter this field?
A: I’ve known that I wanted to be a social worker since I was in the 8th grade. My aunt was a social worker and she really inspired me to help people. I saw that being a social worker would enable me to help people in a diverse way, in so many places.
Q: Do you have any tips for the next generation of social workers?
A: Know yourself. Know what your goals are and set them. Try to get a mentor or have a role model that you can confide in along the way. When you go into the field, pick your strengths and work with those – just find the best way that you can help, and remember to advocate for yourself too. Just know as a social worker, you’re changing the world – one person at a time.
Junfeng Wan, Social Work Student Intern – Wilentz Senior Residence
Junfeng Wan is a first year international graduate student at Rutgers University. Traveling from Hunan, an inland province in central China, Junfeng is pursuing a Master’s of Social Work. He is currently interning at Wilentz Senior Residence, where he has become an asset to aiding the Chinese population of residents who live there.
Q: How are you enjoying your social work internship so far? Is the work different from what you expected when you decided to pursue the field?
A: I’ve been enjoying myself. This is similar to what I pictured myself doing when I came here. Working with the residents has been rewarding for me. I feel like it’s been a two-way exchange; not only do I help the residents, but they help me. They’ve given me confidence that I’ve made the right choice and that I’m capable of doing this work.
Q: Why are you pursing a career in social work? What made you choose the Wilf Campus for your internship?
A: My father motivated me to pursue a career where I could help others. He does work that supports the welfare of society and I wanted to help people myself. If you want to help people, then social work is the field for you. I was interested in working at Wilentz Senior Residence because I feel a special relationship with seniors. I was very close to my grandmother growing up, and I see her when I work with older adults. I think to myself, “I’d want someone to help her if she needed it”, so I keep that in mind when I work with the residents.
In addition to the wonderful professionals that we had the chance to speak with, the Wilf Campus would like to take this time to thank Joadine Venescar, MSW, LSW who is a social worker for Stein Hospice.
The profession of social work is one that greatly impacts our entire society. Found in hospitals, schools, government establishments, senior homes and more; there are over 700,000 social workers currently employed in the United States. The Wilf Campus is proud to celebrate the work that our employees have dedicated to the seniors in our community, improving lives along the way. Happy Social Work Month!