Wednesday, August 01, 2012

New Beginnings, Sad Endings

In December of 1990, I was graduating from UM in a state facing hospital closings, agency closings, and not very many job openings for social worker.  Despite everyone telling me from day one not to expect my internship at Riverview (Ambulatory Psychiatry) to turn into a "real job", I still felt a pang of disappointment when someone didn't say, "Normally, we wouldn't hire an intern at this time, but for YOU, Kelly....."  Oh the grandiosity of youth.

But my supervisor thought I should check out a particular opportunity at the hospital, at the Psychiatric Emergency Room.  Although I'd worked in psych for a year on my internship, I don't think I had heard much or even anything at all about PES.  Anyway, I wanted to be a therapist, not an emergency worker; but I followed her advice and spoke to John, the manager.  Yes, they had contingent openings.  Yes, I met the qualifications.  When could I start?  It was almost that easy.  I thought it was odd that I would be an employee of the county instead of UM, but as I became familiar with screening teams throughout the state, also county-run, it began making more sense.  During those days, PES was only open until 8-5.  I was one of a team of outreach workers, and my partner, Mike Wallace, and I worked every Thursday and once every three or four weekends.  We got a little for carrying a pager and a lot for going to Bayer hospital, or St. Joe hospital, or even out in the community to speak to people in some sort of crisis or other.  Looking back, I don't know why I wasn't terrified, but I wasn't.   I wished I didn't have to get up at 3 in the morning by the time I had a full time job that started at 8, but by the time I met Mike and we drove together to wherever we were going, I was in a great mood.

I began doing "real" psychotherapy about 8 months later.   It didn't take me long to notice that by about the 3rd or 4th session with a person, I was looking at my watch thinking, "Why are you here again?  Weren't you here last week?"

Eventually, because I much preferred the adrenaline, structure, and psychological rewards of crisis work, I ended up back at PES.

Last week, after 12 years of  40 hours a week (give or take an hour) at PES, I left.

I did so voluntarily in that I made a decision to ensure more money in my retirement rather than stay at a place I loved and have less money in retirement.  I'm pretty close to retirement, and have so little money saved up, minus the expected pension, to last me about a minute after I get the gold watch.  Or whatever county governments give dried up social workers.

But I did so being dragged out.  My actual employer, the county of Washtenaw, has decided to stop loaning our little team to PES.  So I"m in a different place, with a different boss, and a lot of different activities that I don't really like.

I don't know where I'll eventually end up.  Many of my colleagues accepted my UM boss's offer of jobs funded by the University.  If I tried to get back in now, I'd have minimum seniority, have to work 30 years until I retire (in the county, I have about 6 years to go), and most certainly have to work midnights instead of days.  (PES doesn't do outreaches anymore because they are open 24/7; patients come to them, they don't go to the patients). I"m too old to do work like that from 11pm to 8 am.

But whatever happens, if I stay where I'm at, leave to start a private practice, or leave to work for someone else other than PES,  I will feel sad about the colleagues, trainees, and professionals of different disciplines I'm leaving behind.  I can only be grateful that my new job will have me going in to PES every couple of days to do assessments of eligibility for hospitalization for the uninsured or Medicaid recipients.  And that I did take a contingent position to work there now and then.  It'll still be a hard loss.

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