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‘It’s not an easy role’; Social workers listen, look for workforce solutions

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Posted: Feb 13, 2024| Categories: Uncategorized

From left to right: Outpatient therapist John O’Neill, wellness counselor Leslie McCoy and team leader Holly Branon

This is part three of the Messenger’s “HELP WANTED” series.

Excerpts from article:

“Rural healthcare and social service organizations need to be proactive and strategic about recruiting and retaining personnel,” the report reads. “Successful recruitment and retention practices can minimize the number and duration of staff vacancies, which can, in turn, save money, improve quality of care and ensure that services are provided in the community.”

NCSS alone has 100 open positions, according to NCSS’ executive director Todd Bauman.

“The staff we have are stable, but we’re still struggling to recruit new people to fill those gaps,” Bauman told legislators this past December.

And in 2023, social workers heard some hard stories.

“It honestly seems impossible sometimes; it’s so sad to say,” social worker Holly Branon said. “The way the world is right now, it’s really difficult.” 

Holly Branon recently took the leap to complete her masters degree in social work, as she was promoted to help her home- and community-based team within NCSS’s children’s division, which serves six- to 22-year-olds.

“It’s a really flexible position to meet the clients’ needs where they’re at,” she said.

As part of the job, Branon and her colleagues often spend hours in one-on-one conversation with their young clients. They try to stay out of the office – kids don’t exactly love spending time in cubicles – and at the end of the day, their work helps children get through difficult times. Needs can range from supporting a child through a change in their life, such as a move to a new school, to more serious issues, such as therapeutic sessions meant to help a child process trauma.

The biggest impact is for the staff to show up for them consistently, to have a safe adult in their life,” Branon said. “Resiliency is a word we talk about a lot. “

John O’Neill also has a graduate degree, necessary in his role as an outpatient therapist at NCSS. Set up in an office across the street from Branon, O’Neill tends to see clients over the age of 60 who get referred to him so he can help them work through various challenges, like retirement concerns, or adjusting to new medical issues. He’s been working in the social work field since ‘91, landing with NCSS after being interested in psychology and helping people. 

“I work for the most part with a group of good people and they’re doing the best they can. The organization is a good one with good values,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill has also seen how the social work field has changed in recent decades, and he said he understands some issues facing the industry. Working as a social worker has only become more and more complicated and burdened with administrative tasks, assessments and tests. Meanwhile, the benefits just aren’t there like they used to be.

“It’s not an easy role,” O’Neill added. “We have a lot of rules to play by, we have people auditing all the time. Insurance companies come and if they find things aren’t in order, it’s always the bottom line. They run the world. They run our world, anyway.” Read more…

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