Hannah Kleinman already knew her place was in social work when she signed up for the online master’s program at the University of Kentucky College of Social Work—but the opportunity presented by her field experience gave her a new mission, and the skills to pursue it.
“Social work was a perfect culmination of every passion that I’ve had,” Kleinman said. After receiving her bachelor’s in sociology from UK, Kleinman decided to pursue a master’s in social work through the online program, which allowed her the opportunity to work while taking classes. “Every professor was really helpful and encouraged me to try different areas within social work,” she said of her experience in the program.
Kleinman credits the field education practicum with exposing her to different populations and helping her to understand which area of social work would be the best fit for her skills. Practicums are supervised, hands-on experiences where students apply what they learned in the classroom through working with individuals, families, small groups, organizations, and communities. Kleinman, who initially went into social work to support children in foster care, realized after a six-month practicum that she wanted to explore a different path. Then, she came across the opportunity to intern at UK’s Albert B. Chandler Hospital.
“I hadn’t realized there was crossover between social work and the medical field,” Kleinman said, adding that the role of a hospital social worker often flies under the radar as they coordinate post-surgical care, connect patients to resources, and assist with appointments for those who may not have outside support from friends and family.
“During my yearlong practicum, I shadowed two different women who were so passionate about their job and very knowledgeable. I felt like I was getting the complete view of what working at a hospital could be,” Kleinman said.
The days were long and there were difficult moments, but Kleinman said the work was motivating and knowing she was able to help people made it worth it. “I had a family tell me they were so grateful for people like me and having social workers in the hospital. That moment was really impactful because I felt like I’m just the student coming in and learning the ropes, but to have people pulling me aside and telling me how meaningful the work was made me see the position in a completely different light.”
Kleinman graduated in December with her MSW degree and is eager to put her new degree to work in her new role as a medical social worker at a hospital in Florida. She is thrilled to step into the position—and credits her time at UK College of Social Work with preparing her for success.
“During the interview process, I talked to a lot of different hospitals, a lot of different places, and I felt so prepared,” Kleinman said. “Grad school has been such an amazing experience, and I felt like I have never excelled more in my life. I think it gave me an extreme confidence boost that I had finally found what I was good at and what I was meant to be doing.”