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A human services professional is a social worker that devotes his career to helping people who live with challenges. These challenges may include physical health problems, mental health issues, poverty, addiction or trauma from past abuse. The rigors of this job can sometimes take a toll on human services professionals. While they deal with the challenges of their clients, they must also learn to grapple with some career challenges of their own.
The decisions that human services professionals make on behalf of those seeking services can be important ones. Since government programs employ lots of social workers, a caseworker may need to decide who will have access to subsidized therapy, pharmaceuticals, welfare and other forms of services. Deciding who will be accepted and who will be turned away can be quite stressful for human services professionals, who are generally a caring, compassionate breed. This sort of decision making may grow easier over time, as the professional learns to accept the necessity of such choices. However, making these decisions on a daily basis may contribute to another challenge of being a social worker – burnout.
In this case, burnout can be defined as exhaustion, depression or frustration triggered by the daily ins and outs of working as a human services professional. Burnout is often the result of an escalating stress level and inadequate self-care (including rest, relaxation, and nutrition). Managing stress is the key to mastering burnout once it begins – it’s also the key to preventing it before it starts. However, even the most capable, motivated social worker can fall prey to occasional burnout. Since human services work is often about connections with other people, the strong emotions and reactions of patients or clients can exacerbate burnout. Sometimes, a small vacation period or sabbatical can ease the symptoms and return the human services professional to a pre-burnout state.
Learning how to use the referral system known as brokering is an important job requirement for human services professionals. Often, these caseworkers will need to understand the overall apparatus of services in their community. They will have to decide which professional can give the patient the results they need. Giving proper referrals can only be done when the service worker really understand the capabilities of the doctor or therapist. Therefore, study and experience are needed in order to become skillful at brokering such referrals for clients.
Like most careers, the day-to-day duties of the human services professional may be affected by office politics. In fact, arguments over “turf” can be quite common in government agencies and other places where social workers are employed. Staying in the loop, keeping the peace and attempting to defuse tension before it can cause harm to one’s career is the best way to manage office politics. Networking and gaining allies in the office and in connected networks can also be an effective way to strengthen one’s position as a human services professional.
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