My time at the local refugee center is coming to a close. Since January, I have been slowly but surely completing my 50-hour pre-field placement for the social work curriculum. I’ve posted about some of my experiences here and I have truly learned a lot from working with this agency.
This opportunity provided me with exactly what it was supposed to – an open door to allow me to get a taste of what a social worker can do in real life application. The MSW I worked under was an amazing role model, using a diverse skill set every day to treat clients with compassion while getting them the help they need.
Even though I know my future career might not directly involve refugees – at least not on a daily basis – this placement has allowed me to expand my cultural competency. I want to have the specialized skills needed to work with people of various cultures because the current health system is so terribly ethnocentric. To be a true patient advocate, I need to be equipped to advocate for everyone based on their own individual needs and desires.
In a cultural anthropology class I took, we discussed the difference between healing and curing from a medical anthropology perspective. Curing is the process a medical team takes to rid a person from a disease or illness. Healing is what it takes for the patient to perceive their illness as gone. These two concepts are not always the same thing.
In an ethnography called “Three Days for Weeping“, a Peruvian woman with ovarian cancer does not perceive western medical treatment as a way to heal her – even if that treatment might possibly remove the cancer. In her culture, her cancer was a demon infesting her soul, which required a spiritual ritual. This ritual did not cure her cancer, but it provided healing.
This is something I think about often and it is an important part of my personal philosophy when it comes to social work. I will be forever grateful that I got to build on those skills at the refugee center and hope that I can continue gaining experiences that allow me to grow as a future medical social worker.