'We all need a little help sometimes': Words and wisdom from an Aging Life Care social worker

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

Social workers can help people at every stage of life. Here, Tracy Nelson, one of our Aging

Life Care Social Work Specialists, shares what attracted her to social work and why this sometimes challenging work can also be incredibly rewarding. She's one of the dedicated professionals we're profiling during National Social Work Month in March.

How did you become a licensed social worker?

I obtained my bachelor's in social work from UND in 1983 and a Master's in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha in 1986. I have my LICSW (licensed independent clinical social worker) certification and I specialize in Aging Life Care.

I meet with seniors who are going through transitions in their life and need some help brainstorming ways to still meet their goals. For instance, they might need help setting up a reliable bill-paying system or maybe they need an advocate during their medical appointments. We work so closely with our clients that our program is sometimes nicknamed the "rent-a-daughter program."

What attracted you to this field?

I was a sophomore at UND and didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. That semester I took a variety of classes and one instructor, Myrna Haga, stood out. She was on fire talking about individuals who started things never considered before, like starting Hull House in Chicago or the hospice movement in England or the New Deal programs to contend with The Great Depression. I wanted to be part of that. Myrna was my mentor and she would meet me or accept my phone calls for decades to come.

What is the best part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my work is being with clients and seeing their fear transform into other things like possibility, consideration, effort, relief and finally a sense of accomplishment. I see great stories unfold right before my eyes.

Yet we know social work attracts caring people, and so can be quite demanding and all-consuming. What secrets do you have for keeping work and home separate?

We deal with people so of course I think about my clients after work, but the key to a long career is, ironically, what you do outside of work. I follow my own advice on living well including nurturing positive relationships, living within my means and being honest by saying no sometimes. On a very personal note, my biggest secret to my success is having faith in God who is much more kind, understanding and powerful than me. I was never meant to do things on my own.

Why does the world need social workers?

Social workers are important because we all need a little help sometimes. Working with social workers to deal with problems is as natural as working with a nurse when you’re sick. It's not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

Learn more about LSS Aging Life Care here.

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