May 12, 2011
Lakehead University student Mary Kraftscik says she is where she is meant to be, and that happens to be the maximum security provincial forensic hospital at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care (formerly Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene). Kraftscik is at Waypoint completing a six-month work placement as part of the intensive one-year post-undergraduate Honours Bachelor of Social Work (HBSW) degree program at the Lakehead - Orillia campus.
"This setting is not for everyone," says Nancy Lynk, Kraftscik's supervisor and social worker at the maximum security site. "But Mary is a natural fit. She jumped right in and had her own case load within two weeks of starting her placement. The patients have responded to her very well."
As a social worker at the psychiatric hospital, Kraftscik works in the Forensic Assessment Program, which is responsible for the assessment, care, management and identification of patients with mental disorders. The program admits men who have been court-ordered to undergo a psychiatric assessment, which is where Kraftscik fits in.
"My job is to complete psycho-social assessments of the patients," explains Kraftscik. "It's basically a snapshot of the patient's life history - his family, childhood, previous criminal charges - anything that helps us to understand the person." Working on a multi-disciplinary team, Kraftscik prepares reports for the team psychiatrist, who uses the assessment to help make an informed decision about whether a patient is fit to stand trial or is criminally responsible for his actions.
Originally from Midland, Kraftscik graduated from the University of Waterloo and then completed a diploma in law clerk studies before moving back to her hometown. "I have always been interested in both mental health and law, but after working for a few years in a law office, I found the environment just wasn't for me," said Kraftscik.
She began working at Waypoint six years ago as a transcriptionist, and then as a program assistant in the Geriatric Unit. "This was an administrative position and I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with patients," said Kraftscik. "In order to do this, I needed my degree as a social worker." Kraftscik began looking for a program to suit her needs, and it wasn't until she discovered the one-year program at Lakehead that Kraftscik was able to pursue her goal. Kraftscik says she was fortunate to have a very supportive boss who encouraged her and arranged for a leave of absence so she could return to school.
"The Lakehead program has been fantastic," says Kraftscik, "especially the practical courses in interviewing and writing assessments. The entire experience has been extremely helpful to my work here."
Nancy Lynk noticed Kraftscik's high level of confidence and skill from the moment she arrived. "Right from the beginning, it was like working with someone with years of experience," said Lynk. "In addition to her impressive work with the patients and outstanding writing skills, she has also brought new ideas and perspectives, which have benefited our program."
Kraftscik says the placement has reinforced her desire to work as a social worker in a setting like the forensic unit. "I just love it," she says. She hopes to be successful at securing full-time employment as a social worker at Waypoint following her placement -- something that would allow Kraftscik to follow her dream while remaining in the Midland area.
Kraftscik is one of seven Lakehead - Orillia students currently on placement at Waypoint. Trish Zeldin, a social worker at Waypoint, works with Lakehead University to coordinate the student placements. "Mary is a good example of the kind of student we get from Lakehead," says Zeldin. "We look for students who have a solid understanding of basic social work practices and philosophies, and who have clear learning objectives. All of the Lakehead students have been excellent. They know what they're looking for and this makes it easier for me to match them with the kind of experiences they need and that support our programs."
The social work students at Waypoint are part of the fourth graduating class (since the program began in 2007) of Lakehead - Orillia's Honours Bachelor of Social Work one-year post-degree program. The University also offers a four-year Honours Bachelor of Social Work program.