Testing the Waters: From Direct Care to QES

My Sheppard Pratt journey began as a University of Maryland, Baltimore social work intern in 2012 on the Adult Co-Occurring Disorders Unit. The internship opportunity at Sheppard Pratt was highly recommended to me by a social worker at my previous internship, who told me, “Go to Sheppard Pratt! They’ll hire you when you’re done!”

Well, turns out that she was right; I was hired as a social worker on the Ellicott City co-occurring unit just a few months after graduation (many thanks to the connections I made during my internship!). The co-occurring population has always been my favorite so that remained unchanged, but in conjunction with my clinical duties, I also found myself putting out a lot of fires. Of course, social work by nature is all about advocacy and support, so a fire here and there was expected. However, as I listened to my patients, I realized that I wanted to find a way to help them address their concerns.

Behold, a patient advocate position opened up. I was a little hesitant about leaving clinical work so early in my social work career, but I made the transition to the Quality & Evaluation Services (QES) department in Towson (complete with new daily trips on 695, yay!). The advocate role had its challenges: listening to complaints all day, finding new ways to communicate diplomatically, and recognizing/accepting the limitations of my role. However, the reward came from improving the experience for our patients, which has always been a priority of mine. Another great part of this role is that while I was no longer in direct care, I was still able to maintain regular face-to-face contact with our patients, often in a supportive therapy capacity. Because QES is so teamwork-oriented, I also began to learn about other areas of healthcare including privacy regulations, data management/analysis, and risk management.

*angelic sounds* Yet another opening appeared – QES Coordinator, my current role. This position allowed me to return to the Ellicott City campus (parting with my beloved 695) and become more involved in all of the elements of Quality & Evaluation Services. Advocacy, appeal hearings, auditing, outreach, trainings, risk management, collaborating with direct care staff and leadership, contributing to process improvement plans, you name it. Each day brings a new challenge; I never know what to expect and I love it! I am a part of the change.

To this day, I do not regret my decision one bit; I’ve gained so much knowledge in the past 2.5 years with QES. Most importantly, my team is the most supportive, encouraging, and well-connected team that I have ever experienced. But one thing that I cannot deny – my skills in social work have laid the foundation. I am grateful to be a social worker and I intend to remain committed to my position as an agent for change for the long haul.


Elana is an LGSW who currently serves as the Quality and Evaluation Services Coordinator at the Ellicott City campus. Her most important job, however, is Dance Mom to her amazing 9 year old daughter. She strongly believes that laughter is good for the soul and strives to find the humor in even the most difficult of situations. Elana loves social work because it gives her the opportunity to empower people to be the best version of themselves.