The Story of a Social Worker, Rita Lambert


What started out as a camping trip up the Oregon Coast and Washington turned into a career serving the residents at Wesley Homes Des Moines.

Rita Lambert has worked as a Social Worker for 43 years, receiving her BA in Social Work in 1972. After graduating, she worked for a mental health agency in Pennsylvania. Rita decided to attend graduate school for social work and began applying to several different schools. She was accepted to a few programs but wasn’t excited about what any of those schools had to offer. She decided to wait a year before attending graduate school. During this time Rita, went on a camping journey up the west coast through Oregon and Washington.

On Rita’s first visit to Seattle, she ferried into the city on a nice day and thought to herself, “This is really beautiful.” On a whim, she decided to apply to the University of Washington’s graduate program for social work and was later accepted and offered a stipend. Upon acceptance to the UW, Rita had only three weeks to pack up and move across the country to her new home in Seattle. She decided to attend graduate school and stay only a few years to explore Washington, but she fell in love with Washington.

“I decided to stay a couple of years, but then I never left,” said Rita. “Where else can you go skiing in the morning and walk your dog on the beach after dinner?”

Rita has worked for Wesley Homes almost as long as she’s been in the social work industry. She started here in 1978 when the Health Center was located in The Terrace. At the time, The Terrace Health Center was a 35 bed skilled nursing facility, and Rita was responsible for all of the residents. Every resident had a 5×7 note card with personal information and a care plan written in pencil on the opposite side. Rita mentions how different the social work process was back then because care plans were limited to a hand written note on a 5×7 card and were often narrative and less clinical. Now care plans are around 17 pages long and are very comprehensive. The process is much more complicated, requiring a 38 page minimum data set that has to be transferred over to Federal and State records. This paperwork is essential for billing and funding and requires an experienced and skilled social worker, like Rita, to function properly.

When the new Wesley Homes Health Center was built, Rita moved her office to the brand new location. She describes her time working at the Health Center as extremely busy but very supportive. With daily admissions and discharges to plan, Rita was happy to be in close proximity to the rest of the Health Center staff. In the past week, Rita moved back to The Terrace to support the needs of the residents there. When asked about her new position as Social Services Coordinator, Rita responded, “The essential functions of the job are the same; I still address people’s needs and concerns. It’s just the location and surroundings that have changed.”  Rita’s location is on the lower level of The Terrace, but she has no doubt people will find her. If not, she said, “I’ll walk the halls and find them myself.”

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