My internship experience has shown me the importance of humility, cooperation, and self-care. The Riverside Behavioral Health Community Partners (BH CP) team is comprised of care coordinators who provide resources and support for members. This may mean finding resources (food, mental/physical health, housing, etc.), assisting a member with support programs (disability, SNAP, housing, etc.), or something else entirely. The job can at times require extensive research to finding specific bits of information, like searching for free and low-cost moving resources or obtaining government benefits. I’ve realized that with the wide variety of responsibilities that a social service worker my take on, it’s vital to give oneself patience and understanding, remembering that no person knows everything. Asking for help, taking an opportunity to learn further, or even learning for the first time, are all needed moments for such a job.
Along with a willingness to put in work for what you don’t know is the importance of asking for help. Care coordinators within the BH CP team use one another as resources. Maybe someone is looking for a service in which another coordinator has already found valuable information. This saves the person both a lot of time and work, and builds trust between colleagues.
Although my internship was primarily remote, the team utilized creative strategies to help them remain engaged with one another and build team cohesion. Technology and the new normal of working from home makes it much easier to connect in different ways. Group check-ins allowed for a short pause to see how colleagues were doing, with light activities things like yoga or taking a walk. These short group meetings were a fraction of the weekly schedule, yet vital for maintaining the wellbeing of direct care workers. To best serve the member, a provider needs to take care of their own mental, emotional, and physical health.
As a part of the team, I created moving guides to help support members and care coordinators during a change of address, I updated patient records, I formed care plans, and more. Overall, I wanted to make the jobs of the care coordinators easier, even in a small way. People in these positions work incredibly hard, so getting a little off their plate matters.
As I near the end of my internship, I’ve proud to say I’ve grown more confident in my advocacy skills and ability to try new things. For someone else wanting to pursue an internship or career in the field of social services, I would suggest taking some time to think about what you want out of the experience/position. Would you like to work in direct-care services, on the administrative or policy side, or somewhere in between? Developing this sense can allow you to come into the interview prepared. Just as the interviewer will ask you questions, so too should you ask them about how they plan to utilize you at their company. With open communication, this hopefully increases the chances that the organization and the individual both feel they benefited from the experience.