A Calling to Social Work
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.”