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Purpose & Perspective

A Profile of Sharon Young, RSW, Women’s Health Clinic

Sharon Young, Registered Social Worker at Women’s Health Clinic, calls herself a “worker at heart,” and says that her career has been the result of opportunity, circumstance and getting behind causes that align with who she is at her core.

“I started out in health care 26 years ago as a volunteer at Women’s Health Clinic. I was at the University of Winnipeg doing an Honours degree in Sociology and I came across a clinic poster advertising for volunteers. Reproductive health really spoke to me, so I started out as a volunteer and worked my way through the organization. Community health is the space I landed and it definitely connects with who I am.”

Young is fascinated by the complexities of the human experience and says that her very nature put her on a social work trajectory. After applying for an employee position at the clinic’s front desk, Young then trained and spent time as a medical assistant and eventually moved into the Mothers Program, now known as Families and Community Program.

“Eventually, I figured I may as well actually become a real social worker. Over all my years in community health, all the work I was doing was social work-related. I was an outreach worker and coordinated the Provincial Healthy Baby Community programs, developed and ran a mother mentoring program, and eventually led the Mothers Program team while also working at the Morgentaler Clinic on Corydon Avenue.”

Young graduated from the Faculty of Social Work in 2013 and proposed an official staff social worker role to the clinic’s then-Executive Director.

“There are now two of us doing triage, counselling intake assessment and brief treatment counselling. The clinic offers both brief, action-focused care, as well as a longer-term general counselling program for more complex needs.”

Services are available to all women and women-identifying persons from anywhere in the Winnipeg.

“Anyone in Winnipeg can call us; we are not catchment-based. Most of the clients we connect with initially contact us for similar, broad-based themes, and although the specifics may be different, the outcomes are the same. We can definitely see a trend: We are all doing more with less, and labour and resources are stretched thin. The expectations around work are very difficult for people to manage because there are individual people doing multiple roles. When you have this kind of role overlap, stress levels are going to be high.”

According to Young, whose advanced area of practice is in mental health, there are considerable wait list problems when it comes to accessing public system counselling. She has become a self-professed ‘master’ at assessing clients’ needs and private benefits programs, and identifying opportunities to get them the care they need, quickly.

“I have always had an ability to strike up meaningful conversations with people. I am a curious person and interested in learning about others’ experiences, so therapeutic alliances come naturally to me. I truly want people to get the help they need in a timely manner. I’m actually good at small talk and getting to know people; in this case, it’s a very helpful skill.”

When Young started at Women’s Health Clinic, it was a small organization with around 30 employees at one site. Today, this feminist, non-profit clinic has approximately 200 staff, a larger operating budget, and three sites including the abortion clinic, the main office at 419 Graham Avenue and Ode’imin (formerly the birth centre). Clinic services include a medical program, midwifery, abortion, pregnancy and birth control counselling, mental health counselling, a Provincial Eating Disorder and Recovery Program, training, support groups, community programming and more.

Young says that she enjoys her work very much and is grateful to be a repository for people’s stories and experiences. “I learn just as much from our clients as they learn from us.” But she also acknowledges that keeping perspective and balance is critical.

“I get up in the morning with purpose, and that purpose can be as simple and straightforward as eating a good breakfast or going for lunch with my mom. I find some degree of purpose in everything I do, but I am motivated and inspired by the people I love – my family and friends.”


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