Field Supervisor Spotlight: Dana Allen

Dana Allen
From left, Barbara Elwin, volunteer coordinator; Jamie Anderson-Newsome, MSW intern; and Dana Allen, social worker, at Halcyon Hospice in Hattiesburg.

Title
Licensed Medical Social Worker

Company
Halcyon Hospice

Degree/Licensure
LSW, LMSW

Alma Mater
Ole Miss

How long have you served as a field instructor?
Two years

What does being an instructor entail? What other responsibilities do you have?
As a hospice social worker, I have students ride along with me. Because we make home visits, I get to introduce them to all walks of life, since you don’t know what family you’re going to meet or what environment you’re going to go into. Students can see the diverse areas that a social worker intersects with in someone’s life.

It’s not just in the hospice but in a lot of different things. You’re going into a home and being part of a family dynamic. It’s a good introduction to the vast areas of how social workers help in the community. And if it’s not a direct intersection with a patient, it can be doing things for family members – community resources, insurance issues, family dynamics and coping, grieving, counseling. It can be small things to big, complex things.

I consider their level of school and how advanced they are, as to whether they get their own individual case load and do their own assessments. I try to get them involved as though they are the social worker, but I’m always supervising.

What is your favorite part of your job? Of being an instructor?
Having a student with me, it definitely keeps me focused on the small details. I’ve done this, but I’ve been out (of school) a long time, so having a student provides me with a fresh perspective; they’re very up to date on literature and current resources. It definitely helps me stay current. I ask them, “What do you think about this?” Two brains are better than one.

I love being part of a helping profession that’s not necessarily tangible like a doctor or nurse taking vitals; it encompasses everything that doesn’t involve a stethoscope – coping, emotional support, helping with resources, helping people navigate through benefits. It’s definitely fulfilling to be a person who helps improve someone’s quality of life, especially at a time like end of life. I feel like it’s kind of a calling. There’s more to the job than just 9-5. It’s an honor to be there for families.

There are a lot of cities and government or others in the community that are not sure what social workers really do. I love being able to show what social workers do in our lives and communities because most people don’t know. There’s so much more to the profession than what a lot of people go in thinking. It’s a unique profession, and I love to be part of students going through that, getting themselves ready for careers.

What are the biggest challenges and rewards of the job? Of being an instructor?
When you have a student with you, you have to remember they don’t have the knowledge base and length of experience. I have to remind myself to make sure I educate them and help them understand situations or what they’re doing and why they’re going to do that – what interventions would be best, rather than what’s easiest.

Just making sure I try to cover the fact that they are in a consistent learning process, make sure we’re critically thinking at all times and keeping them focused on the learning process. Another challenge is, not being in a school setting, I have to remind myself they do have responsibilities to class work and assignments.

How would you describe the quality of interns from Southern Miss?
I’ve had four interns. I know that starting from my first student to this student, I can tell they are very involved in social work. Everyone is there to get a degree, but you have involvement and investment. My first student was very interested in policies and the legislation of things, which really brought my attention to being more knowledgeable about it too. Each student, whether MSW or BSW, is really invested in the profession. USM is very unique, very particular about who they accept in program, and you can tell by the involvement and interest in learning. They all make very good, hard-working social workers.

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