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Maureen Rotundi, Associate professor and department chair of social work at Saint Rose

Professors share wisdom gained inside and outside their classrooms.

Maureen Rotondi

MSSW, LCSW-R

An associate professor and department chair of social work at Saint Rose, Rotondi has been at Saint Rose since 2006. As a social worker at the emergency department of Albany Medical Center, she shares lessons she’s learned and the many ways social workers help people get through the toughest times.

I’ve never not practiced. For me, social work is a vocation more than a career choice. Our work ties to health care, immigration policy, veterans services. Our whole social work department at Saint Rose works in the field.

I called Albany Med in 2012 to see if we could place students in internships. The director of social work said they had an opening in the emergency department and asked if I would be interested.

I got the College’s permission and wound up working noon to midnight every other weekend from 2013 to 2017. Now I work per diem, at least one 12-hour shift a week.

I’ve had nine Saint Rose students intern with me in the E.R., and we’ve had students in the pediatric ICU and general pediatric floors.

My first day on the job, my first 15 minutes, a pediatric cardiac arrest came in. They were not able to reverse the arrest no matter what they tried. I stood by and helped the family through the initial shock. Some days are really hard.

It’s hard to tell parents their 6-year-old child has just died, and we did everything we could. It’s a skill people don’t want to have but they have to have.

There was an elderly couple from three hours away who came in by ambulance with $50 and no way to get home. It’s 11 o’clock at night, and it’s our job to figure this out.

Alex LaFrance, a Saint Rose student interning there, suggested, ‘Why don’t we buy them a bus ticket to Kingston and them have them take a taxi?’ It was brilliant. The hospital could pay for the bus. I called a cab company and explained.

Is that some major clinical breakthrough? No, but it was a way to get them home, and it was social work.

There are definitely times when I think, ‘How did that work out over time? Did that person have a good outcome?’ But I’m not entitled to that information.

In my classroom, I’ll say, ‘We have a patient with a spiral fracture whose parents tell us the baby fell out of the crib. Does that raise any level of suspicion for you? It should. It’s textbook for physical abuse.’ Or, I can bring up a patient who is addicted to opiates, who has mental health and health issues, and housing problems. I can say, ‘What do you tackle first?’

Watching a family lose their loved one, particularly when it’s a child, is devastating. I can remember one morning, coming in at 5 a.m., being with the parents as they held their child for the last time. I watched as he passed, and I said, ‘Thank you for the gift of knowing your child.’ Then I came here to teach. I had a class at 9:25 a.m.

That day, we were going to talk about approaching professional boundaries, what you do in tough cases in terms of self-care. It was appropriate. I was so raw.

The opportunity to be in the moment with the students helped me process some of my feelings and demonstrated for them the professional process. I was a lot more human to them.

If you don’t practice, it’s difficult to know what to teach students. We want to raise great social workers. We want people in the field who are the best at what they do. I love teaching, and I love to practice, and I get to do both. I have the best of both worlds.

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