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Recipient: February 2006
Rose Piacentino, BA, BSW, RSW, believes that social workers at all levels can make a difference, regardless of their degree or setting or location: "It's what you put into it".
Until recently, Rose worked for five years in the Trauma/Neurosurgery Unit at St. Michael's Hospital, where she now works in the Critical Care Unit. Rose is also a spokesperson for Into The Light Foundation, a foundation established in honour of Louise Russo, which was created to help bridge the gap between government support and the cost of crime. She was interviewed in advance of National Social Work Week which is being celebrated March 6-12, 2006 under the theme:
"Violence Hurts Everyone"
The year 2004 marked the beginning of a unique challenge for Rose and her family, when her sister, Louise, was the victim in a random shooting, which left her a paraplegic. This tragedy had a devastating impact on her family, and Rose was called upon to share her experience through the media. She wrote an article reflecting on her personal perspective in regard to this traumatic event and its consequences in the February 2006 issue of OASW Newsmagazine; to view it, click on [Article].
Rose Piacentino emphasized how proud she is to be a social worker. She believes that social workers bring special skills to the table. She stressed the need to increase social work's visibility both in the media and in schools. She said: "It is vital that a proactive approach be taken to prevention and social workers are uniquely qualified to do this. Social workers have insight into the needs and often the causes." Her dream is to see social workers become an integral part of the curriculum in elementary and secondary schools - there are skills that social workers can impart that could have great long-term impact, for example, related to self-esteem and self-respect. She underlined the need for more active involvement beyond annual presentations on bullying, and the availability of school social workers after problems have been identified: "It is important to be there on an ongoing basis to repeat these vital messages."
In her career, Rose was offered a position at St. Michael's Hospital upon graduation in 1990 from York University, and has been able to move from unit to unit as opportunities and interests arose. Over the years, she has worked in medicine/surgery, HIV/AIDS, orthopaedics and neurosurgery/trauma. She finds social work such an exciting field with possibilities to work not only at the grassroots level, but also in research and program development, among others, in both the private and public sectors - she believes that the opportunities are endless. She voiced the hope that students in their first year of social work are introduced to the wide range of fields of practice available.
Rose Piacentino emphasized that social workers need to also become visible at all levels of government. She pointed out that social work is uniquely placed to advocate on behalf of marginalized groups, making it crucial for the profession to use its voice. Within hospitals, she believes that social workers must ensure that other professions understand their role and find ways to creatively and innovatively showcase their skills to ensure that clients are best served.
Rose finds that one of the greatest challenges facing social work today is doing more with less. It is a reality that budgets place constraints on services. However, she stressed: "We should not be afraid to speak up and influence change on behalf of our clients. We must remember who our client is."
According to Rose Piacentino, a leader requires passion and a vision. Often she said, this means recognizing where there is a gap, having a vision of this gap, articulating it, going for the challenge, connecting and networking with others who have the same passion and/or who can influence change, and then implementing this change. In addition to strong listening skills, she said that a leader also needs empathy, compassion, trustworthiness, determination and advocacy skills: "All of these come under passion. That's the soul of social work."
Personally, she has a great deal on her plate: the ongoing trial for the accused in her sister's case; the long-term effects of the crime; the severity of her sister's condition; Rose's own family which includes two little girls; her work at the hospital; her volunteer work at her local public school; and her unpaid work related to the foundation. But she has found that she cannot just deal with the personal - it is important to her to take her social work skills and give voice to the many victims who suffer in silence. She understands how difficult it is to deal with a system that often works against the victims and acts as a barrier due to its complexity. She said: "It is challenging, frustrating, and complicated. No one helps with the entire flow. It takes a physical, financial and emotional toll." Working with the foundation and other community groups has given her an outlet to use both her training and her knowledge from the perspective of a victim to help others in navigating the system and accessing the resources they need.
For Rose Piacentino, her passion for social work has been easy to maintain. She enjoys the uniqueness of people, the different values, beliefs, traditions, and lifestyles. While the work can be stressful at times, knowing that you made a difference to help someone cope makes it all worthwhile: "It is satisfying, in a traumatic situation, to reinforce their ability and to bring to light their inner strength."
In keeping with the theme for Social Work Week 2006, "Violence Hurts Everyone", Rose was asked what she would like to see happen to address the concerns related to violence and abuse. She answered: "We need to recognize the everlasting ripple effect of crime and abuse and the cost to all of society. We need positive mentors. It only takes one individual at a time to make a difference."
Rose Piacentino is a social work leader - she is empathetic and determined and she makes a difference. During Social Work Week, March 6-12, 2006, and throughout the year, take the time to acknowledge social workers who play a vital role in addressing the many forms of violence in our society.