In honor of National Social Work month, we chatted with Angela Hospice’s Director of Social Work and Grief Care Services, Debbie Vallandingham, about working at Angela Hospice and being a leader.
For Debbie, working in social work at Angela Hospice isn’t just a job, it’s a calling.
“I know we say that a lot, you hear that a lot… but it really truly is a calling,” Debbie said. “I really think you have to be a certain type of personality or mindset to do hospice in social work, because it isn’t a drain for me, it energizes me.”
Social work is actually a second career for Debbie, whose first degree is in organizational management and business. She’ll celebrate her 10-year anniversary with Angela Hospice this June.
So what brought her here in the first place?
After experiencing her mother’s death without hospice in 1984 – a time when hospice was just really beginning to take off in the United States – and then her sister’s death with hospice, Debbie said the difference was amazing, and she knew that’s what she wanted to do. She started as a volunteer to make sure it was what she wanted, then began to work on her master’s degree, and is now a leader at Angela Hospice.
“What keeps me going is being able to provide families what I didn’t get as a 19-year-old losing my mom. I didn’t have any support. I had nothing,” she said. “People don’t have to do that anymore. So my role is sacred. I can be able to take my experiences and my skill set and be able to guide people through one of the biggest challenges of their life.”
To be a social worker in hospice, to Debbie, is a privilege. She called it one of the most important roles in social work. And to be a leader at Angela Hospice in her role as Director of Social Work and Grief Care Services is a sacred trust.
“Look at this organization, it has historically been created and run by very strong female leaders,” Debbie said. “And it is a privilege to be able to be in that same vein.”