Each March, Magee celebrates National Social Work Month. Though we may be called ‘case managers,’ everyone on the Case Management team at Magee is a licensed social worker. We have all earned a Master of Social Work, and we have all studied and taken the test to be licensed.
To celebrate our special month this year, we’d like to highlight one of our own social workers, Tracy Kardon. Tracy has a special role at Magee. Unlike the rest of us, Tracy works in both the inpatient and outpatient areas at Magee. She sees patients with spinal cord injuries when they are admitted to the hospital and then does intensive follow-up with them through Magee’s Spinal Cord Injury Medical Home, once they are back in their communities.
I sat down with Tracy to get to know her a little better and to be able to share her love of the profession with all of you!
Ashley Loftus: What made you want to be a social worker?
Tracy Kardon: Well, this is a complicated question! My parents divorced when I was 18, and it was a very traumatic experience for the family and myself. I spent the next 10 years recovering while in college, studying, playing sports, working and rebuilding relationships. I utilized psychotherapy, yoga, and nutrition, and my passion for health and wellness continued to develop. I grew more and more interested in holistic health, specifically how the physical body, mind, environment, family, and society interact. I discovered the field of social work after college, while working at health centers in underserved/underprivileged neighborhoods in New York. I wanted to work in holistic health and wellness and assist people in managing their needs in a western medicine setting. In graduate school, I interned at two hospitals in New York and immediately knew I wanted to pursue a career in medical social work.
AL: I often find I have to defend my choice of a career in social work. People will say something like “Why would you want such a sad job where you don’t get paid a lot?” Do you tend to get that as well?
TK: People ask me often, “How do you work in a hospital every day?” or “How do you work with spinal cord injured patients? Isn’t it sad?” Yes, it is sad at times but also beyond gratifying. I go to work each day determined to help others and shed some light during a very dark period of someone’s life. If I can help them in any way, it is a good day. Bad things happen. Most of society is just not exposed to trauma and sickness on a daily basis. The beauty in this work is accepting the things in life we cannot control and helping others to embrace the good, then make positive changes.
AL: That’s a really beautiful outlook on what we do. I have to mention that you have a unique role in our department. You see patients in the hospital and in our outpatient clinic for the Spinal Cord Injury Medical Home. What common challenges do spinal cord injury patients face transitioning back into the community?
TK: The Medical Home allows me to focus my efforts on one of my interests, holistic health. Once a patient with a spinal cord injury leaves Magee, they enter a world that is very different from the one to which they were accustomed. Their relationships, physical space, life purpose, pursuits, and emotional state are drastically altered forever. Adjusting to these changes is a lifelong journey, and I work every day to make life as a person with a disability easier, so that they can focus on creating a different but hopefully just as full life for themselves.
AL: Have you found any resources in particular that have really helped the patient populations you serve?
TK: My greatest resources are my patients and their families! I learn something new every day from their experiences in the community. As an inpatient social worker, we often lose touch with how our patients traverse the medical/insurance/community systems once they are home. I tell all my patients to contact me about their problems but also when they discover something beneficial, so I can share it with others. Social media is also a great resource, as I can observe and learn from my patients and their families from a different perspective.
AL: Do you have any big successes or happy memories you’ve experienced working on the job?
TK: One very happy moment actually occurred this week when I attended a meeting with my 16-year-old patient, his mother, the nurse, and the faculty at his school. He is quadriplegic, and we are working to help him return to high school. He will begin this week!
AL: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of pursuing a career in social work?
TK: The beauty of the social work field is in its diversity. Find an area that interests you, request an internship in that area, and go for it.
AL: I see everyday how passionate you are about your patients. What passions do you have outside of Magee?
TK: My passions are an extension of my interest in health. I am a passionate vegan and love to spread the message of compassion, non-violence, and the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. I love cooking especially for my husband and two kids, and I practice yoga as often as possible. I started a homemade, organic, vegan, baby food company when I was home with my kids, before I returned to Magee.
To learn more about National Social Work Month, visit the website for the National Association of Social Workers.
Top photo: Magee Case Management Department