Home   News   Article

MARISSA MACKINNON: Often misunderstood and sometimes challenging, social work can still be such a rewarding career

By Contributor

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
Social work has many challenges but helping people makes it all worthwhile.
Social work has many challenges but helping people makes it all worthwhile.

March 21 marks World Social Work Day, a day for social workers globally to celebrate their shared profession and recognise the value of the jobs they do.

It’s also a moment to pause and consider the work done internationally with individuals and families to listen, empower, co-produce and protect where needed. More pragmatically perhaps it’s also a day to reflect on the ethical codes and legislative framework that guides and inspires social workers on the difficult days when bureaucracy and paperwork can seem overwhelming! A career in social work can be rich, with daily challenges and a tangible sense of satisfaction. However, I cannot deny that on occasion the job of the social worker can also be frequently misunderstood.

At its heart, social work is about working in partnership with people wherever possible to promote their rights and self-determination. We aim to support people to live independently, be active citizens, participate and contribute to society, and maintain their dignity and human rights. Social work is a key player when it comes to developing a healthy and vibrant population and keeping people safe. We work with a wide range of people, from babies to the elderly, presenting with a wide spectrum of life challenges, such as mental health conditions, homelessness, dementia, learning disabilities, and alcohol or drug concerns. Day to day, we never know what we will be asked to respond to. However, social work is a profession where you’re never alone. Throughout my career – and I’m sure any other social worker will say the same – if there was ever a time I wasn’t sure of what to do, I could always ask a colleague or manager who invariably would. Twenty years later I am still asking and learning!

Marissa MacKinnon, Principal Officer in Social Work Services, NHS Highland
Marissa MacKinnon, Principal Officer in Social Work Services, NHS Highland

Even as we battle with some of these difficulties, invention and creativity becomes more evident, giving rise to a new generation of social worker. We have recently established the Hospital In-Reach Social Work Team based in Inverness, which covers the whole of the Highland area. Their purpose is to work with hospital patients who may need support. This may mean planning for safe discharge as soon as possible once they are medically fit and helping them lead independent lives, or providing a higher level of support to others when needed, for example, within care homes. This requires working closely with families, carers, hospital staff and our colleagues to find the best solutions possible.

A career in social work can be challenging and demanding, yet unremarkably rewarding and full of emotion. Every day is unique and a number of valuable relationships are formed over the years. The individuals I’ve worked with during my career have brought so much richness and texture to my working life; whether it is intervening in order to protect a vulnerable person, assisting someone in getting the help they need at home, or comforting someone who is struggling to care for a family member.

Not only does World Social Work Day allow us to celebrate those who dedicate their careers to improving and protecting the lives of others, it also allows us to stop and appreciate the ups and downs that ultimately make us human. These instances, and many others, have over the years, educated me and brought optimism to my days. They have made me appreciate my fellow citizens evermore as the unexpected resilience of human nature continues to shine through again and again.

If you’re interested in a career in social work, all vacancies are listed here

Marissa MacKinnon is principal officer in social work services with NHS Highland.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More