Social work requires high commitment and adherence to professional values. The core values of social work include service, dignity, justice, competence, integrity, and the importance of communication (National Association of Social Workers, 2017). Ethical principles behind these values state the importance of the professionalism of social workers, helping people, and addressing various social problems (National Association of Social Workers, 2017). It is crucial to align personally with the professional core values to avoid job dissatisfaction. Despite the intensity of this work, self-care is equally essential because it ensures the maintenance of high productivity and dedication of workers. Therefore, learning to engage in self-care is necessary for a highly stressful environment (Grise-Owens et al., 2016). Professional values are critical in social work, but when they contradict someone’s core values and impose danger to physical or emotional well-being, self-care should become the priority because it is an ethical obligation.
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My core values of respect for people, honesty, and responsibility were the main reasons for choosing my career path. It is vital to be inherently truthful and responsible for managing social justice or injustice (National Association of Social Workers, 2017). I have always admired social workers who could serve people with dignity, integrity, and competence. However, a highly stressful environment may disturb core principles essential for maintaining a good relationship with people. Moreover, it can impair one’s ability to treat other people with empathy, and to consider and respect individual differences. For example, when I worked in the dialysis unit, where people worked under high pressure, some core values were violated. The staff was not helpful, and they often treated co-workers and patients impolitely. Social justice was also breached at that workplace because I witnessed situations of discrimination and unfairness. This period of my life was unpleasant because my health was deteriorating, and my strong position on the core values was shaken, making me feel like I was “losing myself.” Indeed, distancing myself from that position helped me restore my emotional well-being and my belief in social justice.
As mentioned previously, self-care is paramount for social workers to maintain good work productivity and avoid emotional exhaustion, leading to the depreciation of professional values. The necessity for self-care in human life cannot be overstated because it allows for maintaining a balance and preventing physical and mental illnesses (Grise-Owens et al., 2016). The core values of social work are directly related to self-care because serving others requires healthy and stable workers. Indeed, a person with robust physical and emotional health is capable of providing quality service to others. For example, when my health started to decline during my work in the dialysis unit, I cared less about following my core professional principles. Conversely, focusing on myself re-established my trust in the ethical principles of social work and my desire to continue my path in this field. Therefore, I realized that self-care is also a moral responsibility similar to respecting human dignity and establishing justice.
Overall, core values maintain social justice by a careful approach to people’s individuality, respecting interpersonal communication, and maintaining integrity and competence. As I noticed from my personal experience working in the dialysis unit, although social work is collaborative, its stressful nature may harm communication between people, impairing their health and core values. Therefore, self-care is an ethical obligation for all social workers because caring about other people always starts with protecting one’s physical and emotional well-being.
Grise-Owens, E., Miller, J., & Eaves, M. (2016). The A-to-Z self-care handbook for social workers and other helping professionals. New Social Worker Press.
National Association of Social Workers. (2017). Code of ethics. Web.