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    Stress case study

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    Distress at DES

    Your friend Diane works at the Department of Economic Security (DES) as a child protective service worker. You have known Diane personally and professionally for a number of years, and she has asked you to advise her on managing stress. She told you that she admires the way in which you seem to handle stress in your own job at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and she wants advice and counsel for reducing stress where possible and coping with the rest.
    Because you are such a good friend, you have decided to set aside an afternoon to talk to Diane. You begin by asking her to simply talk about the sources of stress in her Iife. She tells you the following: "First let me say, I love my job I really think I am making a difference in the lives of children and their families. lt's not that it isn't frustrating - it is. Sometimes the system lust won't let me do what think is best. l do care about my work and want to stay in the job, but I guess the stress is getting to me, I can't figure out what the problem is, After all, l've been on the job for 3 years. But l feel terrible, l can't sleep, l'm anxious, my stomach hurts, and my blood pressure is up. l even have this annoying rash that seems to appear on my neck when things get tense "l have a new supervisor. She's part of what is making me crazy.
    According to my training and what I have been taught here, l am a social worker I am supposed to help families and kids the best I can. By law, my first priority is preserving families, which means that sometimes I have to
    make some pretty tough judgments between protecting the kids and keeping the family intact. This new supervisor says we're just supposed to investigate, not do social work. As she puts it, 'we don't have time to babysit or be neighborhood do-gooders. This, she says, will free us up to increase our workload by a third
    "My husband has been so supportive. But he has gone back to school, you know. That means I have to be at the day care at exactly 6 o'clock every day of the week Morgan, our 4-year-old, can't seem to shake the ear infections. The doctor has suggested surgery l don't know when we're supposed to fit that in, but I guess we have to get it done. "But back to the job I am in the car half the day, going from case to case I can't even tell you how often I have in complete information. Sometimes its a wrong address, but the bigger problem is that l just don't know what l'm walking into. We don't routinely share information with the police. Sometimes I walk into dangerous situations; sometimes it's just a nuisance call from a crazy neighbor. But l can't predict Three weeks ago, an angry father threatened me. lt normally wouldn't have bothered me so much, but I just have felt vulnerable lately.

    "When I get back to my office, I have a mountain of paperwork, and of course the phone rings constantly. I used to try to have lunch sometimes with some of the other workers-talk about cases and let off some steam-but I have felt too pressured to do that in the last several months l've got to catch up on the paperwork.
    "So, l've been doing this job for a while. Why am l feeling so stressed all of a sudden? Whats wrong with me? What should I do?"

    Respond to the following questions:

    What will you say to Diane? Are there additional questions you would like to ask?
    What advice will you give her? What do you think are some of the sources of her stress? How will you work with her to develop strategies for reducing her stress?
    What are your recommendations for coping with the stress that Diane is experiencing? What will you caution her not to do?
    What actions have you taken in the past that have helped you to cope successfully with stressfu circumstances? Could any of these approaches be useful to Diane?

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    Solution Preview

    Okay, I have outlined some responses for you to use. There are a number of ideas for you to work with, so you should easily be able to complete the essay.

    What will you say to Diane? Are there additional questions you would like to ask?

    First, the questions should pertain to the job. Who is taking down the information, and is there a procedure in place that requires the information completed to be accurate? Next, you should question her about the written policies of the department. Where, if following those, does the supervisor differ? Is there a grievance process to ask about changing the job direction, and how it pertains to the policies already in place? In addition, you might need to know if the supervisor's changes have increased the paperwork.

    Diane needs to schedule her workdays better. Working in time for lunch, times she is out on the road for "investigation," and time for paperwork. Placing calls on "do not disturb" with a message that she will call back is also helpful. Most of these agencies have an emergency number that people can call if they need immediate help, so that should be included in her message. She should also prioritize her off work schedule to make sure she is doing what she feels her family needs. People who are guilty about family matters often feel more pressure about work. She should not feel guilty about scheduling her daughter's medical procedure. It is okay to have a life outside of work and it is okay to say so. She should contact HR about when she can schedule the procedure and time off to care for her daughter.

    What advice will you give her? What do you think are some of the sources of her stress? How will you work with her to develop strategies for reducing her stress?

    Her stress seems to come from the differing views of what her job is according to her experience and training and those of her new supervisor. She should schedule a meeting with the supervisor first to express her concerns, not the least of ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution provides a discussion, using questions supplied, on how to handle stress in the case study presented.