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My friend, Robby, is a licensed social worker in a skilled-care nursing home for veterans. He chose this challenging career because he followed his passion. From an emotional perspective, it’s a tough job on a good day. But in the current environment of the pandemic, the risk of exposure presents a physical risk as well. He has been sick but getting better. He wanted to write his story and asked me to copy edit. I would like to share his story with you, which is also posted on LinkedIn. I have his permission to reprint it here:

Social Workers on the Front Line of America’s Pandemic

Every day, a social worker wakes up, drinks a cup of coffee and tries to get to work on time. As a social worker, during that ride to work, I think about the kind of day I have ahead of me. Will it be a quiet day, a day filled with chaos or a tragic day when someone passes away?

On a day-to-day basis, social workers are called upon to work with the emotions of family members and staff as well as their own. Then came January 21, 2020, when the first case of the Covid-19 (Novel Coronavirus) hit the U.S. shores. It was December, 2019 when people in Wuhan, China first encountered the deadly virus, which has since impacted every part of the globe with the exception of Antarctica.

Since the outbreak, like colleagues in my field, I have been working alongside physicians and nurses who lack training in long-term care facilities. Due to their nature and comorbidity, long-term residents tend to be more vulnerable to deadly outcomes. This also leaves social workers, working one-on-one with residents and hospital inpatients, searching for answers to questions that we presently do not have. This is the first time in my life where people are dying alone in spite of their loved ones wanting to be present.

When social workers go to work, they are right there, walking the same floors and taking the same risks as medical practitioners but go completely unnoticed even by social work standards. Yet, this is the time when social workers and health care professionals should all be one team. In baseball or softball, the fielder positioned between second and third base, referred to as the shortstop, is considered to be among the most demanding of defensive positions. Social workers are the shortstops of the Covid-19 team.

In the future, when frontline positions are remembered for their role in helping people though this crisis, keep in mind that it was a social worker who ensured this defenseless population was safely returned to the community. It was a social worker who assisted them with communications. It was a social worker who advocated for them. It was a social worker who became their family at the end. And for those in the final stages, it was only the social worker they would see.