My area of interest in terms of social work is chronic/terminal illness, end-of-life issues/planning, grief/bereavement counseling and almost anything else that can fall under these umbrellas. I know a good bit about services available in these areas and have a fair understanding of how things work in terms of advance directives and some of the legal aspects of end-of-life planning. Until recently I don’t think I gave myself enough credit for this knowledge base I posses.
Last semester upon completing one of my courses my professor asked if I would be willing to come back fall 2015 as a guest lecturer and speak to her new class about end-of-life issues, such as the Death with Dignity Act, she knows that is my pet advocacy project. This was before Brittany Maynard brought Death with Dignity to the forefront and heightened our nation’s awareness of the issues. I was flattered my professor thought me expert enough to conduct a guest lecture but I was worried that as versed as I am on the topic it would not be enough. The idea of questions being asked that I could not answer scared me.
Last week we were assigned an “advocacy project”. We are to make up a role play to be acted out in front of the class this week. We broke up into groups of six and got to work. My idea was that we would be an agency advocating for a transgender male client. Some of my group members seemed really excited, others stared blankly. Whenever I am assigned a role play where we, as a group, are expected to create the situation ourselves I like to push the envelope a bit. My goal after a role play like this is for it to start a dialogue. The last one I was apart of involved inappropriate self-disclosure. It would have been really easy to act a scene that included inappropriate self-disclosure but the truth is in the field that line of appropriate and inappropriate may not be so clear. We played the scene so close to the line that the class was questioning whether what our clinician shared was inappropriate or appropriate, that was exactly what we wanted, to confuse everyone. In the field my group and I agreed that sometimes the line can get blurred and we wanted to show something real, not something that was obviously wrong. In the end the class saw how it did classify as inappropriate and a valuable conversation ensued.
I was hoping to take this opportunity to do a scene that would lead to a conversation about cultural competency, something I think is an issue in the program but that is a post for another day. In the end I was out voted though and that is OK, I can save that role play for another time. My group decided on Death with Dignity as our advocacy project. I explained that since right-to-die laws do not currently exist in Florida we could play the role of social workers doing macro work at the state capitol advocating for this with law makers, my group seemed put off by this idea. It was decided that the role play would involve a client and case worker. It would be the case worker’s job to educate and advocate for this client who has recently received a terminal diagnosis.
No one in my group is familiar with what this looks like, however they knew this was my area so they looked to me to write and guide the role play. I agreed as long as it was understood that I would not be playing the role of client or case worker this time, they will be the lead roles and I think the work needs to be distributed. If I am writing the scene I should be acting a smaller role to give others a chance to learn from this role play.
I finished writing the role play this afternoon. All I can say is I knew more than I gave myself credit for. Once I sent it to my group members I got great feedback about the level of detail I put into each person’s character and what services will be available to our client. I am really proud of the work I did here. I feel much more confident about my level of knowledge and understanding with this population I hope to serve again in the future.
I am looking forward to performing this role play in front of the class later this week and the discussion that will hopefully come from it. I definitely feel more confident about the prospect of guest lecturing this fall on this topic. There is always room for growth and further knowledge but I do have a good foundation and need to give myself credit for that.