Social work alumna walks on the bright side of outpatient care
When Angela Ruppel decided to go back to school at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and pursue a master of social work degree in 2008, she felt a little nervous. And her family shared the sentiment.
“I had to consider my husband, kids and all the stuff day-to-day life entails, but my family was really supportive and understood I needed a career,” Ruppel said. “I had friends who asked me, ‘Are you going to walk at graduation when you earn your degree?’ and I had to tell them, ‘Yes! My kids need to see me cross that stage!’”
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UMSL in 2001 and working as a crisis counselor at Magellan Health for seven years, Ruppel knew she wanted to make a deep impact in the helping profession.
After grueling semesters of attending graduate-level courses in the evening and managing 40-hour workweeks at her day job, all while finding time for home life, Ruppel began her MSW practicum at Mercy Hospital’s Clayton/Clarkson Oncology and Hematology Clinic.
Upon graduation, Ruppel was hired on as an oncology social worker at Mercy Hospital, and just two years later, she became the manager of her department. Counseling clients through high-stress situations prepared Ruppel for her new role.
“When I tell people I’m a social worker in an oncology center, they get defensive and grim and say, ‘Oh,’ expecting me to dwell on the worst. But even though there’s struggle, there are bright spots too,” Ruppel said. “Patients might be overwhelmed and believe their lives are over. My team and I talk with them, go over resources and listen. Sometimes that’s exactly what they need – someone who can listen. Previous patients will come back once they’re feeling better and update us on how their lives are going. This lets us know we made a difference, and that feels good.”
Ruppel believes the organizational, critical thinking and empathy skills she learned in UMSL’s School of Social Work have allowed her to be effective in a field that constantly requires quick thinking and flexibility.
“We don’t know the patient’s background when they walk through the door, so we assess and meet their needs where we can,” Ruppel said. “They can feel a loss of control. Their lives become unfamiliar to them, but we’re there to provide them with resources and be a vessel that helps guide them through diagnosis, treatment and recovery – the whole journey.”
Ruppel confided that she respects the power of a listening ear and genuine support, as without guidance and encouragement in her academic journey, she wouldn’t be in a position to help others.
Although going back to school is daunting, Ruppel proved the challenge can be met. For prospective students on the fence as to whether seeking a new degree is the right move, she has a few words of advice.
“Talk to your family. Let them express their feelings about it. Do your homework. Weigh your pros and cons. Don’t give up. Don’t accept no for an answer.”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=62839