Chula Vista Veterans Home Social Workers Pay it Forward by Robert Winkler

Social work is an important element in providing care to residents at Veterans Home of California – Chula Vista.  The professionals who perform this vital role are often part of a continuous cycle of mentorship beginning during their formal educations. Some of the duties of the home’s social workers include, but are not limited to: counseling and mental health care, discharge planning, patient advocacy, conflict resolution, and psychosocial education and assessment.  While a good education provides the background necessary to understand the basic aspects of the job, only experience and mentorship can prepare a new social worker to interact with residents.

Marina Kravets, VHC-Chula Vista’s Chief of Social Work Services, began her career here as a Masters of Social Work intern from California State University (CSU), Long Beach.  “As an intern, I learned what it’s like to walk in the shoes of social workers and to apply what I learned in class in the real world,” she said.  Kravets was hired as a Clinical Social Worker after her internship, and later obtained a position as a supervisor. “I feel that teaching future social workers is my way of paying it forward to the community.”

Currently, VHC-Chula Vista is providing Masters in Social Work (MSW) internships to four students, Kiara Baugh, Erin Gray and Alexa Starr, from SDSU, and Nycole Cully, from CSU, San Marcos.  They all began their internships August 25. Baugh served in the Army National Guard as a captain in the Medical Service Corps for eight-and-a-half years.  “As an Army veteran myself, I was very excited to be accepted for this internship,” she said.  “My plan after graduating is to practice clinical social work in the Army Reserve, or work for them as a civilian; so the experiences I’ll receive here will help prepare me for working in the VA health care system.  I’ve found that having a military background has benefited me in already having a solid knowledge base and familiarity on which I can relate with the residents.  I’m looking forward to a wonderful year ahead,” she added.

Kravets takes her role as a mentor seriously, with the understanding these students may one day work in a similar setting, serving the community, and possibly veterans in need. “Our students complete 500 hours of supervised clinical social work, where they become a part of the VHC – Chula Vista team and carry out their roles and responsibilities as a social worker,” she said.  Kravets has developed relationships with local universities in support of the program to enhance the knowledge and experience of medical social work and veteran-related issues in long-term care.  She recently received a certificate of appreciation from San Diego State University (SDSU) for going “above and beyond” as a field instructor.

Tanya Frausto worked here as an intern for nine months while attending SDSU, and began working as a full-time employee August 13.  “I was first introduced to the world of medical social work during my internship here,” she said.  “Marina provided me with the skills necessary to succeed not only as an MSW intern, but also to excel academically.  Today, I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to continue my work at the home, under the supervision and guidance of Marina.”

The symbiotic relationship between VHC – Chula Vista, and local university MSW programs has created a fertile training ground for students, as well as a pool of well-trained social workers who may choose to continue to help veterans.  Mentors, such as Kravets, ensure future residents will continue to receive the support they need.

Robert Winkler is the Public Information Officer, Veteran Home of California – Chula Vista. This article was printed in the CalVet newsletter.