After doing her Master of Social Work at the University of Melbourne, Rachel Blance-Palmer has now returned to complete her PhD to embrace her interest in research.
Rachel Blance-Palmer’s experience as both a student and a social worker has perfectly prepared her for her current role supporting student wellbeing in the university sector.
What are your strongest memories of your time at the University?
The field education component (placements)! The placements provided fast paced learning and the exposure to the day-to-day work of the social work profession made me excited for my career ahead.
I had one placement in child protection and one in a hospital setting. I have since worked in both these organisations. I also gained lifelong mentors from these placements and the support they still provide me with is invaluable.
What kept you motivated at university?
Occasionally, I would look at the job vacancies in the social work sector and this would keep me motivated to complete my studies! I would feel excited about one day being able to work in these roles and to get to contribute to the community day-to-day as part of my job.
Tell us more about your role and how your studies helped you prepare for it.
I currently work in a student wellbeing support role in the university sector. I also work as a social worker in the intensive care unit at a hospital and as a sessional academic and researcher at the University of Melbourne.
My hospital placement can be largely credited for my current hospital role. The skills and knowledge I developed on placement built my confidence in carrying out the role, as well as the hospital’s confidence in my work ethic and abilities.
My hospital role sparked my keen interest in research, as I identified ways to potentially work differently and wanted to explore these with an evidence-based lens. Subsequently, I enrolled in a PhD at the University of Melbourne. My PhD endeavours linked me back in with the social work department, which led to my roles as a research assistant and teacher at the university.
As a current student myself, I have developed a breadth of understanding of the university context. This, along with my social work skills, position me well to support students in the wellbeing role.
What are some career highlights so far?
Clinically, I am proud of the support I have provided to patients and students across different settings. I can confidently say I have supported members of the community through some of their most difficult times and that I have made a positive contribution to the wellbeing of many people.
A highlight has been commencing a PhD and knowing this will increase the recognition of social work as an evidence informed profession.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Know when to pick your battles. Social workers have a strong sense of justice and are skilled in advocating for equality, but we cannot realistically take on every battle so we need to choose these carefully.
What advice would you give to current social work students?
Social work is a value and moral based profession, so stay true to yourself but challenge you thinking through robust discussions with peers and through other experiences.