MERIDIAN, Miss.—Patsy Edwards spent seven years working with Burlington Industries before the company’s Stonewall plant closed in 2002.
Out of a job, the then-32-year-old determined to pursue a more stable career. She chose social work because she reasoned “there would always be a demand.”
After completing field placement in 2006 with the Department of Human Services’ Meridian office, she earned a social work degree at Mississippi State University’s Lauderdale County campus and was hired full-time by the state agency.
A decade later, Edwards is a DHS social work supervisor who now finds herself directing her first MSU-Meridian social work major, Amanda Jenkins. “I guess you could say I’ve come full circle,” Edwards said.
From her student perspective, the Meridian resident said her experiences over the last few months have been eye-opening. Even in so short a time, the knowledge and experience gained through the academic major are beginning to coalesce with the on-the-job training.
“I definitely understand now how crucial good note taking is and why it was so imperative we wrote all those papers in class,” Jenkins said with a smile.
She explained how each visit with a client requires a social worker to develop a written narrative of the meeting for an investigation report. Containing all pertinent information, the report must be concise, accurate and detailed, she added.
Jenkins said the Edwards-supervised experiences have left her deeply impressed with the critical roles social workers play in society. “Until you see what all they do, you really don’t have a grasp on how critical their role is.
“There are so many things they do to help families and children; so many different avenues they can take to do what is best for everyone involved,” Jenkins continued. “It is a lot of responsibility and it takes a competent person to do this job.”
Obviously, Edwards is pleased at Jenkins’ grasp of the career demands.
“It is my job as a supervisor at DHS to help the social workers under me do their job effectively,” she said. “As Amanda’s field instructor, I want to make sure she gets a well-rounded realistic picture of what this agency does. After all, I was in her shoes almost 10 years ago, and I want to make sure she is exposed to as many facets of the job as possible.”
In addition to Edwards’ guidance, Jenkins said she appreciates the many other positive experiences she’s had, both working at DHS and as a student the MSU-Meridian social work program. She gave special praise to Rhonda G. Carr, social work program director, and her faculty colleagues for “preparing me for this field experience.
“There is only so much you can be taught before you have to go out and see it in action,” Jenkins said. “The opportunity to work with the families and see what the social workers at DHS do day-in and day-out has been invaluable. It is all coming together for me and I’m excited about the future.”
Both Edwards and Jenkins agree that field placement at DHS must be challenging. As Edwards sees it, “If you can make it as social worker at DHS, you can be a social worker anywhere. You’ll see a little bit of everything and you’ll be prepared to handle anything that comes your way.”
As for this latest student under her veteran tutelage, Edwards said Jenkins “has demonstrated a caring and compassionate heart for working with families and children and I’m excited to have a small part in her success.
“She is going to be a very good social worker wherever she decides to further her career.”
For more about MSU-Meridian’s social work program, visit www.meridian.msstate.edu/academics/arts-sciences/degree-programs/social-work/.
Mississippi State, the Magnolia State’s flagship research institution, is online at www.msstate.edu.
Picture: Field instructor Patsy Edwards (l) and MSU-Meridian social work student Amanda Jenkins post outside the Meridian DHS offices where Jenkins is currently completing her field placement requirements.