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Where Are They Now? Charlotte Hannon '13MSW

char.jpg"The grownups are Claire, me (Char) in the middle, and my friend Keri who is running for Mass Eye and Ear this year. This picture was taken before the bombs went off, we were spectating in Natick center. I really love this picture, it captures all the joy before everything went so bad."

Welcome to the Marathon Monday edition of Where are they now? This installment highlights Charlotte (Char) Hannon, who graduated from Simmons in 2013 with a Masters in Social Work. Char currently works for SALMON VNA and Hospice as a Medical Social Worker and at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital as an Addictions Counselor.
On Monday, Char is volunteering at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. We spoke with her about her time at Simmons, the events of last year's Boston Marathon, and her decision to volunteer this year.
What is a typical day like at your job?
It's never the same day twice! On most days at the VNA, I go out and visit an average of four patients per day in their homes. Home could be a house, an apartment, public housing, assisted living, or a long term facility. At visits, I provide counseling for adjustment to illness, referrals to community resources, help with short and long term planning, caregiver support, and discuss advanced directives with patients and their caregivers. I also facilitate a support group for caregivers of people with Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementia and participate in case conferences with nurses, rehab therapists and supervisors when we need to coordinate our care approach better.
What was the job application process like for you?
I think I stressed myself out more than I should have. I was very worried about getting a full time job as soon as possible and being able to pay for student loans and help support my family at the same time. I was fortunate that the VNA called me after I responded to a open job posting I found on Indeed.com. I think I applied to about twenty open job positions in the medical social work field, and chose this opportunity from three good offers. Many employers responded positively to the fact that I was a Simmons graduate.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I really enjoy empowering older patients to take charge of their medical health and long term plans. Sometimes patients are wary of having a social worker in their home, concerned I may send them to long term care or otherwise tell them what to do. Almost all of my patients wish to age in place, and I love helping them locate the resources and fully utilize their benefits from the VA, Masshealth, and other programs in order to remain independent. Often, an older person simply needs access to transportation or assistance with heavy housework in order to be able to keep living at home. Others appreciate the option for short-term counseling when they are too sick to leave home and become depressed or anxious with being homebound. There is a lot to like about this work.
How did you know the organization would be a good fit for you?
My supervisor was the first person I interviewed with, and she and I clicked right away. I also liked that the company I work for had several different campuses and levels of care, offering room and growth for the future. The job offered the flexibility I needed as a working mother, and I was able to get the supervision I need to be able to obtain my independent licensure as soon as I am eligible.
What was your favorite class you took at Simmons? Why?
It's a tie. I really enjoyed my medical social work elective, since it was so focused on the kind of social work I wanted to do. I also feel like I learned a lot from the Dynamics of Racism and Oppression course. My work brings me to many patients in poverty and several from other cultures. Many of my patients at this job and others are from marginalized groups and different cultures, and it has been very helpful for me to be aware of how I am privileged in order to not be an oppressive force in someone's life. I really liked the electives because so many of them were taught by truly gifted adjunct faculty who were experts in the field they were teaching.
If you could come back and take one class at Simmons what would it be
Radical Social Work with Dawn Belkin Martinez! I signed up for it so many semesters and then had to drop it due to schedule issues. I can't wait to read her new book.
How did Simmons help prepare you for your career?
I had an excellent field placement where I really had a chance to use the skills I learned in the classroom, and knowledgeable, experienced professors who used their work experiences to teach. Having professors who really cared about us and our future careers made such a difference. I felt like every paper I wrote and every test I took was useful. Most professors were great about bringing in colleagues from agencies they were affiliated with who were so giving of their knowledge.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Honestly, I'm not sure what I want to be when I grow up! Don't tell my parents, they'll be exasperated. My original goal was to be working as a medical social worker in a hospital setting, but I have been really enjoying my work in home care. I would love to work with a palliative care team or with hospice patients, and I really enjoy working with patients with cardiac, diabetic, and renal issues. I took the per diem position at the Faulkner because I have worked with addicts for several years and really missed that patient population. One goal that isn't too defined yet is that I would love to do clinical work with first responders.
What advice would you give to current Simmons undergraduate students?
My best advice would be to try to keep an open mind about your career, and try not to be too rigid in what you think you will want to do, as you may wind up liking something else. When I graduated with my bachelors, I was really focused on wanting a career as a police officer. Over the years, I never made it onto the force, and I was beside myself when I was too old for every town I applied to. Fortunately I had been counseling while waiting on those lists which gave me experience, and then social work turned out to be the perfect fit for me.
How many years have you been volunteering at the Boston Marathon? What made you volunteer initially?
I first volunteered in 1999 in Hydration Station 3 in Ashland. I grew up in Natick right on the course, so "Marathon Day" has always been a really important day for me, and I was excited to be helpful to the runners doing more than just cheering. I did the water station again in 2001 and 2011, and then ran the race in 2002. It wasn't pretty, but I finished!
Can you describe your experience last year at the Boston Marathon?
I still live on the course, so I invited some of my runner friends who weren't running in 2013 for a typical cookout-type gathering. We brought all of our kids down and watched the race, and then everyone left when the runners had gone by, some to spectate further down the course, and others went home. I was actually just cleaning up and sitting in front of the TV when I saw the first blast go off. The rest of the day was a blur, trying to track down friends running, friends working the event, and everyone else unaccounted for. At the time, I was working for a crisis team, and many of my friends from the hospitals I worked in were police, fire, medics, and nurses who either volunteered at the race or were involved in the manhunt for the bombers. It was a really difficult week since every person affected seemed to be a six degrees relation, and everywhere we went, the friends and family of people we cared about had been hurt or killed. 
Because of my work as a crisis clinician in my own community, I spent weeks providing assessments to people from all walks of life affected by the bombings. I also remember the outcry of friends and coworkers in areas of Boston constantly affected by violence and not receiving the kind of outpouring of support that the Marathon bombing survivors received, and struggling with expressing my support for those affected by both issues without offending or alienating anyone at a time when we really all needed each other. I used to work for an alternative lockup program in Boston and have been permanently affected by knowing the young people who live with violence on their streets every day. The entire event was really difficult because I have a young son, and had to explain some things to him and protect him from others.
What made you decide to volunteer this year?
I really felt that I needed to DO something tangible. Running is out, since I'm recovering from some foot surgery. If I could run, I would have run for charity. The next best thing was to volunteer again. I knew I had a very slim chance of being chosen, but having volunteered at the marathon for six years in various roles, I asked for the finish line. I wrote an email to Elizabeth Worthing explaining that I have several years of experience as a crisis clinician, and that I am skilled at working with police, fire and other first responders and would be able to respond quickly and calmly to any sudden change in direction or duties. I feel like volunteering this year is the best way to give back to the event that I have always loved and to the runners who I respect so much for coming back.
What about Marathon Monday are you most looking forward to?
Just being there and doing the best job I can for the race. I am also excited to see several friends from across the country who are running, as well as so many local friends doing charity runs.

Posted by Mary Delaney
Category: Where Are They Now?


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This page contains a single entry by Mary Delaney published on April 19, 2014 1:57 PM.

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