By Alison Laurio
After numerous months of lockdowns and masks and no get-togethers, reopenings can bring huge sighs of relief and what NASW Texas calls a lingering feeling of anxiety about community safety. So the chapter held a virtual symposium in May titled “Welcome to the New Normal: Social Work Post-COVID.”
Texans were receiving mixed messages, from federal experts urging caution to Texas officials pushing for rapid reopenings, said Will Francis, NASW-Texas executive director. The chapter decided there was a real need for information to help members adjust, so it designed the daylong program.
“Telehealth became the new normal so quickly,” Francis said. “Many had limited experience or hadn’t used it before. Will we still use it after?”
With questions like that on some minds—and others issues such as how to discuss vaccinations with clients, or discrimination against the Asian/Pacific Islander community, and even the state of the political landscape—he said, “We get it that nobody feels calm now. We thought, how about we get together and show you tools that can help you get to the point in life where you are engaged again?”
About nine people, including three staff members were involved in planning the presentation, he said. They reached out to members, sought diversity in presentations and presenters and looked at changes to services that had happened, like the use of telehealth.
The programs were:
- “Breaking the ‘Model Minority Myth’: Asian/Pacific Islander Mental Health and Social Justice,” presented by Melanie (JaeHee) Chung-Sherman;
- “Moral Distress and Its Effects on Social Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” from presenters Alma Hernandez and Brenda Moore, both Texas A&M University-Commerce social work professors;
- “COVID-Cultivated Changes among Healthcare and Hospice Social Workers,” with Demetress Harrell, CEO of Hospice in the Pines; and
- “Ethical Implication of Private Practice Post-COVID: A Discussion,” presented by Dawn M. Hobdy, vice president of Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion at NASW national; Will Francis; and Charlotte B. Cooper, director of clinical reimbursement project at NASW-Texas.
More than five dozen people attended, primarily Texans, and they included members and non-members as well as some from outside the state, Francis said.
“People stayed for the whole day, which was great, and comments were positive,” he said. “We got some really good reviews. Dawn Hobdy was really great.”
Francis said people asked Hobdy all sorts of questions, from how to stay within rules and regulations to social worker safety and well-being.
Telehealth is now “a huge part of the landscape,” as many social workers shifted from outside offices to home offices, Francis said. “It will be interesting to see if some go back or not. Others have had to go back to see clients. We want to make sure people are providing for their own health.”
“It’s complex,” he added. “People adapt in different ways. The majority did not lose their jobs. The question is, were they comfortable if they had to see clients in person? Some people didn’t want to do that. These are the hard ethical questions everyone had to ask themselves.”
The chapter was excited to provide an opportunity like this program provided, Francis said. “We want to make sure people have the tools they need to be successful. There are big issues out there in many areas. Jumping back in is the thing. Is it going to be different, or is it going to be the same?”