BABE #198: DOMONIQUE JACKSON, Dialysis Social Worker, Fresenius Kidney Care
Domonique is a dialysis social worker for Fresenius Kidney Care. Her day-to-day — in addition to mothering two little girls — involves supporting patients dealing with behavioral issues, depression, noncompliance and trouble navigating support systems. Her work is emotionally draining, certainly not for the faint of heart, and oh so important. While a career in social work is far from easy (and often overlooked), we are eternally grateful for Domonique and others like her who are taking on tough roles with grace, empathy and resilience as they help the ones needing it most find their way.
Hometown: Palatka, Florida
Current city: Green Cove Springs, Florida
Alma mater: Florida State University
Degree: Master's in Social Work
Very first job: Research Assistant, Northeast Florida Center for Community Initiatives
Hustle: Dialysis Social Worker, Fresenius Kidney Care
Babe you admire and why?
I admire my mother, Carmela Givens. She is my number-one babe, who is supportive in everything I do. I admire her because she is tough, intelligent, kind and funny. She knows how to hold her own in any setting and has accomplished so much. She reached the rank of colonel in the Army and at one point was in charge of her own battalion (which isn’t an easy job, but she commanded respect from her soldiers). She has a master’s degree in nursing and is always educating me on being financially stable and planning for the future. I admire her and look up to her as a woman, single mother and good person.
How do you spend your free time?
I try to balance my time between hanging out with my daughters, my friends and “me” time. So that could be taking trips, eating, blogging, archery, going to museums, reading, playing video games, etc. I try to do a variety of things to keep life interesting.
Favorite fictional female character?
The grandmother from “Hey! Arnold.” She was fantastically wild, untamed and wise. I think she had Alzheimer's and was a little crazy at times, but she really didn’t care and was living her best life at that boarding house. [Editor’s note: Possibly our favorite-ever answer to this question.]
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
What would you eat for your very last meal?
What’s something most don't know about you?
I’m extremely uncomfortable meeting new people.
If you could have coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be?
Brené Brown. She is a researcher of courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy. Her research and publications have shaped the way I practice social work, measure myself as a person and measure my relationships.
Tell us about your hustle.
I’m the social worker at a dialysis clinic. My role is to be a patient advocate and to contribute a perspective to the doctor, nurse and dietitian that reminds them that the patients are more than just patients; they are a part of a bigger network that they affect and are affected by. I’m there to dive deeper into behavior issues, noncompliance, depression, support systems, etc. I defuse situations among patients, provide resources, information and help them apply for grants and assistance. I assess patients for depression and help them adjust to dialysis through education, brief therapy and sometimes just by building relationships with them.
What does your typical workday look like?
Dialysis clinics have treatment times that are separated by schedules and shifts (time slots), and most patients come three times a week. The shifts vary from clinic to clinic depending on the census. Also, some patients perform their dialysis at home. My workday starts with checking to see what’s on my to-do list for that day. It depends on who is coming that day and what is due (assessments), follow-up I need to do and patients I need to talk to. I’m big into lists and Post-it Notes; it’s the best way to make sure things get done and that I follow up on anything I need to. (When I tell a patient I’m going to do something, I want it done, otherwise it could damage the trust they have in me. It shows that what they need and want matters). Then, I walk on the treatment floor to knock tasks off my to-do list. This is where things always get hairy and I get pulled into other things. I could be asked so many different questions by patients and staff. I've been asked about insurance, medical equipment needed, relationship advice, housing, bills, kidney transplant, to assess someone for current drug use, to mend relationships between staff and patients, speak with angry or depressed patients, go on home visits (for patients doing dialysis in their homes), make bulletin boards, provide activities to pass the time—and the list goes on. The short answer is, I wear every hat imaginable, except being a nurse, doctor and dietician (I don't give out any advice in those areas). The last tasks of each day is paperwork and inputting information into the computer.
What led you to pursue a career in social work? Why dialysis in particular?
A social worker’s goal is to improve a person’s wellbeing and help them meet their basic needs, taking into account their culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity and anything that shapes them. We empower the vulnerable, oppressed and poverty-stricken so that they may meet their needs. Our focus is on a person’s wellbeing in the social context (environment and people who surround them and their reciprocal nature) so that both may understand each other better. My favorite part of this profession is the understanding that a person is worth something because they are, and the need to promote social justice and change. My career is fulfilling and can create ripple effects in people’s lives. My journey to dialysis was unplanned. Dialysis was first put on my radar when I interviewed for an internship at a dialysis clinic but ended up going with a paid internship with Veteran Affairs. After graduating with my master’s degree, I struggled to find a job due to not having enough experience. I ended up doing outpatient therapy and while I loved the work, traveling and logistics were tiring. I started looking for something else. I remembered dialysis. As luck would have it, there was a position open. They remembered my past interview, I applied and got it. I almost took a school social work position in Tampa, but I decided on dialysis social work here locally.
How do you practice staying composed and balanced in such an emotionally charged profession?
Staying composed can be really difficult at times when a patient breaks down in front of you. I’m extremely empathetic and there have been plenty of times I had to blink back tears. What keeps me composed is the fact that this interaction is not about me; it’s about the patient. How am I going to help them through struggles if I can’t focus and stay calm? However, you can’t be emotionless, as it isn’t real nor comforting to the patient. It takes a lot of work and experience. Being in social work-type jobs for a while teaches you how to mask it better. I prioritize first by severity and safety (depression and suicide ideations), then by order (who asked first) and deadline (certain tasks have a due date). I keep my schedule very flexible because you never know what will happen and what emergency will come up.
How do you balance being a mother of two amidst such a demanding role?
Balance can be tough, but it’s very necessary for my happiness and my own identity outside of work and being a mother. It’s the reason I started blogging on Instagram, started putting together my own personal blog and travel. I make time for myself and time with friends. I usually go out one to two times a week. Sometimes, I have a date, hang with friends, go out to eat, have a drink or go sit at a coffee shop and read. I travel at least twice a year (one with and one without the children). Advice to other mamas: Remember to take care of yourself. It isn’t selfish to leave the kids with a trusted person to have time away from them. Define who you are outside of working and being a mother. Friends, family and your kids may try to guilt or judge you for going out or getting some distance, but always remember your happiness and health is worth something and it doesn’t lessen who you are as a mother. This doesn’t mean I advise not parenting your kiddos, not making sure all their needs are met and not making time for them, but that you get time too and every moment of your time doesn’t have to be given to someone else.
What’s it like raising two young daughters in this current climate with the background that you have?
It’s very scary raising two girls. I find myself having to explain a lot of life lessons about dating, friendship, beliefs, morals and ethics to my 10-year-old because of technology and TV shows. It’s so important to know the content of what they watch. These “tween/pre-teen” shows can be very heavy and misleading with their content, and sometimes I need to add or correct. Also, sometimes I need to counter what my own family members say, as I’m probably the most open-minded and least judgmental. At the end of the day, I want my children to learn that while a person’s circumstances, beliefs, backgrounds, etc. shape them, it doesn’t define them. A person is worthy because they are a person. I want my girls to understand they are worthy and they don't have to devalue themselves to feel “love”, “success” or whatever they are seeking. Most importantly, I want them to learn how to build and sustain self-worth, how to love and take care of themselves better than anyone else so that when they encounter others they know what genuine love looks like and how to give and receive it.
How have your past academic and professional experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
I was a child welfare case manager managing DCF cases for a year. That was by far the hardest job I’ve ever done. The hours were long, the stories sad, pressure from court was heavy and the caseload was overwhelming. My time management was put to the test and I was terrible at balancing home and work life. However, I learned so much, encountered so many people and stories and it made me think twice about judging someone because you never know what they’re dealing with. It changed my perspective and taught me how to hold my composure under nerve-wracking situations. What my academics didn’t prepare me for was navigating the different resources that offer help to others (government funded programs, insurance like Medicare and Medicaid) and how hard it can be to get people monetary help. I get so many questions about Medicare and Medicaid and I just don’t have the answers. We get minor training at work and they didn’t teach us anything about it in school. I have never dealt with it directly to have personal experience, so it’s all learn-as-you-go, which is stressful on me and the patient.
What are some common misconceptions about your job?
Life as a social worker can be challenging. Some professions don’t respect you or your assessment of the situation because they assume you are emotionally-driven with your decisions. It’s such a draining job. You sit with someone when they’re at a point where they feel their lowest. Not sit around them, sit with them and feel their pain. While you’re sitting with them you must hold the light and tell them to look at it and to see it and know that it is there and hopefully one day put it in their hands and tell them they can sustain it and care for it themselves. This sucks positivity out of you and then you go and do this in your personal life with your friends, children, husbands, wives, etc. Being a social worker is living in a world where you ask a thousand times, “how are you doing,” but don’t get asked enough of that same question in return.
What advice would you give to a babe trying to break into your industry?
You have to be careful how you help someone who’s fully capable of taking care of themselves but has become used to someone doing it for them, or lost the will to do it themselves. You have to empower and not enable. Take them so far, then give them some responsibility. They have to want it more than you and your goal should be teaching them so they’re able to accomplish later tasks without your help. From a professional standpoint: Consider going after your master’s degree in social work to get access to a wider variety of jobs and better pay.
What does success look like to you?
If I can retire and have enough money to just travel the world, that would be my own personal success. In general, success looks like contentment and happiness with the decisions you have made and their end result.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Career advice: boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Don’t hustle so hard that you don’t take care of yourself and forget to be mindful and present to enjoy the journey. Life advice: Never put something or someone completely in charge of your happiness. You have to know how to love yourself just in case those people or things falter. Promoting self-love is not downplaying or dismissing your worthiness of love from others. It’s promoting your perception of yourself so that without them or their words you know who you are and how to be happy.
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