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Student eager to serve and put social work skills to work in the military

MSW student John Bailey is not only eager to serve his country, he can’t wait to put his newly earned social work skills to work in the Air Force. Bailey, a second year student in the School’s Winston-Salem Distance Education Program, has been with the Air Force Reserve since 2013. Next September, he will deploy to Germany where he will be stationed as a medical administrator for the health service management team with a major hospital.

Just a few years ago, Bailey was a graduate of Old Dominion University in Virginia, with a degree in psychology, but he was unsure where his professional career was headed. Pursuing his MSW changed his outlook, he said. Now, he’s ready for the next chapter in his journey.

“I know it sounds cliché, but all I ever knew is that I wanted to help people, and that’s why I went into the military, too,” said Bailey, a Tannenbaum scholar. “After learning more about the core values of social work and the things that entail being a social worker, I knew that this profession fits me. This is what I am here for. This is my purpose.”

Bailey, who eventually hopes to become a clinical social worker, also expects his experience in mental health will play a vital role in his military service. For the last three years, he has worked as a mental health tech with Wesley Long Hospital in Greensboro. There, he helps to assess patients who enter the emergency room and works closely with doctors and nurses on treatment options. He also helps lead psycho-educational group sessions.

Bailey knows men and women in uniform and their families often struggle with mental health issues as well, especially veterans who have experienced combat. Social workers are well-trained to assist them and to help with other initiatives, including efforts to prevent suicide and sexual assault, issues that continue to challenge the military.

“Unfortunately, many of these kinds of mental health issues often aren’t addressed until it’s too late,” he said. “But active duty social workers have the training and skills to help inform and educate the public with the hope of preventing these problems from manifesting 20 to 30 years down the road.”

In addition to his school work and his part-time job with Wesley Long, Bailey is also responsible this year for completing an internship with the Guilford County public school system, where he is currently working to address student absenteeism and dropout rates, especially in high schools.

Knowing he would have such a full academic plate, Bailey stressed a bit about how to juggle it all – until he was awarded the Tannenbaum scholarship. He’s grateful for the funding because it has helped him pay for school and cover basic expenses at home.

“It’s been a tremendous blessing,” he said. “Before the semester started, I worried, ‘How am I going to pay for my house? How am I going to pay for this car note and insurance bill?’ I had to try and figure out a way to take care of all those things, while still focusing on doing well in school. So this scholarship alleviates a lot of those issues.”

Although he didn’t initially plan to pursue a career in social work, Bailey is thankful he made the professional leap and that he enrolled in the MSW program. Long term,

“Before I started this program, I’d never thought about meeting the client where they are or delivering services in a holistic way,” he said. “Typically, when an individual would come to me, I would just focus on that one situation. And now I’ve learned to look at the bio-psychosocial, spiritual aspect of it. These lessons have made me such a better person. I know so much more about what’s needed to really work with people and to understand people. So I’m really grateful for learning and understanding that information.”

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