Interview with Lorna Adams, MSW, BA, Social Worker


Q - You've worked in healthcare for many years now, with both adults and children. As a social worker, would you say your main role is helping people enhance their well-being?

A - My role as a social worker is guided by a code of ethics, regardless of the population I am servicing. The code of ethics sets values, principals and standards to guide my role and provides specific guidelines to assist in making ethical decisions in treatment and service to clients. This code is based on core values which not only include service, dignity and worth of an individual, but also integrity, competence, importance of human relationships and social justice.

Q - They say people's passion drives their career choices or should drive them. Is that the case for you, Lorna?

A - Yes, as a social worker I have an intense desire and eagerness to help people in need, and to address social problems. It's putting service to others above self-interest. This is the primary goal of social work; to rise up to serve others.

Q - Do you often run into people who don't want help or support? How do you approach someone who could use assistance, but feels uncomfortable accepting support?

A - It is true; there are times people who need help exhibit a level of resistance. More often than not, these can be individuals who need help the most, but at first may not want to accept it, or comply with services. Clinician-client relationships often depend on establishing good engagement early on, to develop a working therapeutic relationship that the client views as helpful, supportive and hopefully, nonjudgemental as well. The client also needs to feel that the environment is safe for them.

Q - What are some of the best community resources to support one's well-being?

A - Resources vary depending on individual need and funding systems. I have been called the "Resource Queen" for my ability to find resources. There are many resources available to assist individuals in becoming comfortable and to help with unmet needs.

Q - Personal resilience is a topic in the news these days. Can you explain personal resilience?

A - An example of personal resilience would be communities overcoming the crisis of river flooding. Flooding occurs throughout the world and can devastate an area, and the people involved. I've personally witnessed neighbor helping neighbor, coming together as a community, and problem solving. They devised and arranged methods to overcome the crisis, despite the many stressors associated with the flooding that affected everyone, including myself. 

Q - When bad things happen in our lives, natural disasters, tragic events, violence, etc. how does personal resilience play a role in the way we respond to what has happened?

A - There are many protective mechanisms that determine how individuals react to tragic events, including family support systems, as well as social and relational support, along with different coping mechanisms. During times of crisis and suffering, when family belief systems see the crisis as manageable, it allows families to effectively function through any adversity they experience, personally, or together. This resilient outlook contributes to family bonding through the crisis, and connecting with each other, through the problem-solving experience. For me, a recent crisis was the unexpected loss of a parent. For other people in South Florida, it was losses associated with hurricanes and the recent school shooting.

Q - When something bad happens to a co-worker (death, divorce, job loss) what are some important ways another co-worker could support them?

A - My advice would be to be present for co-workers experiencing losses in their lives, by comforting them, and acknowledging the loss, instead of overlooking what has happened. An example of offering an appropriate level of support, could be something as simple as asking, "Is there anything I can do for you?" or "Is there something I can do to help you?"

Q - You have had experience with Alzheimer's patients. What are a few tips for how we can focus on our brain health? Is Scrabble the answer?

A - I think adult learning is so important to brain health. Libraries, museums, and art galleries are excellent places for mental stimulation and learning; maybe not for the Alzheimer’s patient, but in general. We all can benefit from a lifetime of learning.

Q - Lorna, in our conversation, you mentioned you've also worked with dialysis patients, who have chronic kidney disease. What is the best way to support someone with a chronic health condition?

A - Many dialysis patients not only have chronic health conditions, but are trying to get on a transplant list. It is vital that a dialysis patient, wanting a transplant evaluation to be put on a kidney transplant list, follow their physician's and dietitian's advice to stay as healthy as possible. They also need to try and maintain a positive attitude throughout the transplant evaluation process. It is important that dialysis patients are compliant with the medications their physicians have recommended, as compliance to a medical regime can be a determining factor for transplant. Other individuals with different chronic conditions, other than end stage renal conditions, can also benefit from being compliant with their medical regimes, to manage their chronic health conditions, like COPD, CHF, Diabetes, etc.

Q - Lorna, I admire your life's work helping people. When you are in a caregiver role, personally or professionally, it's easy to take care of everyone but yourself. What are a few ways you take time for yourself, to protect your own well-being?

A - My advice to myself and others would be to eat well, stay healthy, exercise, get plenty of rest and "take time for you". Listen to music, take walks and enjoy nature. Maintain a level of wellness, and practice preventive health by getting labs regularly, and scheduling regular physician visits.

Thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions. You have certainly been a change agent throughout the communities you've worked in. We commend you on your life's passion of helping people achieve their personal best, in every situation. We cannot always control the things that happen to us throughout life, but we can control how we respond to them. As a recap, your two valuable keys to success seem to be centered around resourcefulness and resilience. Great insight for everyone to think about!