There are some people who understand their passions at a young age, and get it right the first time. There are others who need a significant amount of life under their belt before realizing what they are put on this earth to do; and sometimes it takes hardship and tragedy to find your true calling in life. Mike Conway, the Angela Hospice Director of Social Work and Bereavement would have likely never found himself in this position without facing a great loss first hand.
It was at Alma College where Mike’s career journey began. A member of the wrestling team, Mike majored in Exercise and Health Science in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. His goal changed during his senior year, and upon graduation, he did the next best thing: he got a job.
A friend of his worked for 360 Services, Inc., and encouraged Mike to join him there. Mike did join him, doing marketing and warranty work for Ford Tractors, where he eventually became warranty division manager. When New Holland Tractor bought out Ford Tractors and moved operations to their national headquarters in Pennsylvania, Mike transferred with them. Five years later, Mike returned to Michigan and to 360 Services, Inc., but this time as a production manager overseeing the marketing division.
Work was going well. However, Mike’s personal life was headed for stormy waters. Mike’s significant other at the time had been complaining of back pain. Her X-rays revealed nothing serious and doctors encouraged rehab and exercise… but nothing helped. She eventually had trouble walking, and a trip to the hospital led to a terminal diagnosis with a prognosis of only one month to live. Mike became her primary caregiver, with Community Hospice providing the necessary support to keep her comfortable. Over the course of the month, a nurse case manager mentioned that Mike would make a good social worker. Although surprised by the suggestion, Mike kept the recommendation in the back of his mind. “The idea of being a social worker had never occurred to me,” Mike said. “As like many people, I thought social workers dealt with child protection or other types of domestic services.”
After the passing of his loved one, Mike started thinking about what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He no longer saw 360 Services, Inc. as his future career path. In fact, he remembered the hospice nurse’s suggestion and considered making a life change. Mike began looking into becoming a social worker. While investigating this possibility through Wayne State, it was recommended that he do some volunteer work. Already familiar with Community Hospice, he volunteered with them. Mike was accepted into the Master of Social Work program at Wayne State and began his first year internship at a substance abuse clinic. While looking for a place to fulfil his second year internship, Mike searched for a hospice placement and discovered Angela Hospice, shocked to find that it was right across the street from 360 Services, Inc.! After only a few days into his Angela Hospice internship, he knew hospice was where he belonged. “During my internship at Angela Hospice, I was moved by how a social worker has the opportunity to provide support, comfort and encouragement to both the patient and family during this difficult time in their lives,” Mike said.
While maintaining a full time job, Mike worked diligently and was able to finish the Social Work program in two years. After graduation, he landed his first social work job at a methadone clinic. Mike continued working for 360 Services, Inc., and was also a contingent social worker at Angela Hospice. After a month, Angela Hospice posted a full time home care social work position and Mike jumped at it. Finally, he was where he knew he should be!
After several years as a home care social worker, Mike was recommended for the social work manager position. Mike admits that taking the promotion wasn’t an easy decision.
“I was hesitant about going back into management,” Mike said. “Then I thought about it and realized that I knew the people I would be managing. I enjoyed fieldwork and I could still help others provide that care. Joint visits, sitting in on family conferences and meetings give me opportunities to work with patients and families.”
Mike enjoys his position, and is dedicated to Angela Hospice, “Because of the work we do and the people I get to do it with,” he said. And to think, it only took him 20 years to cross the street!