Job Title: Helpline Specialist
Education: BA in International Studies, minor in Gender Issues: University of Oregon Licensed Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA)- Reedwood Long Term Care, Oregon
Previous Experience: I worked as a nurses assistant at a nursing home for 2 years. Then I went to work for a nursing agency where I traveled to various facilities and hospitals as a nurses assistant.
Job Tasks: I work for the Alzheimer's Association, which is a national non-profit organization that has Chapters, or satellite offices, throughout the country. The Alzheimer's Association focuses on funding research towards a cure of this disease, as well as the education and support of those suffering from this disease and their caregivers.
My role in the organization is multi-faceted. My primary job is in answering the helpline, which is a 1-800 number that allows people from all over my state to get support 24/7. When answering the calls you have no idea what the other person's situation is going to be. Some calls are very simple with people simply needing a referral or resource information. As an example of that, I often provide people with lists of support groups, physicians, or facilities in their area. We update our own database, which means that we have to be constantly looking out for good resources in the community that can help our clients.
Some calls require much more support or advice. My background in caregiving (as a nurses assistant) helps me understand what caller's are experiencing and gives me some tools in trying to come up with suggestions. It is difficult, as this is a very tricky disease.
I also teach classes to the public on various topics relating to Alzheimer's disease, as well as facilitate a support group for those with early memory loss.
The final responsibility that I have is in organizing and maintaining our lending library. Because we are a small organization, our library is not that big so I do not devote too much time to this. As we expand, however, this will become a larger role for me.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is when I get off of a phone call or out of a meeting and I can see that I have truly helped someone. Generally a family will need some help sorting through the diagnosis and planning, and being able to help them come to understanding of the disease is great. I also love working with those with early memory loss in the support group.
The worst part of my job is not knowing what the situation is going to be every time you pick up the phone. Sometimes people are very upset because they are too stressed out and you are the last person they call. Often times people will call when they are already in a crisis situation and it is difficult to meet all of their needs.
1. Take a class in all things PC: Excel, Word, and Publisher especially. If you know Access, you will be a great asset to any non-profit company.
2. Build up your support system both in and outside of work. Dealing with a population that is under such stress can wear on you, so make sure you know how to leave it at work.
3. Be open to taking on new tasks. I never thought I would teach a class or facilitate a support group, but as I saw new opportunities emerge I was able to take them and learn from them.
Additional Thoughts: Non-profit organizations, especially those dealing with a specific population or disease, can be very rewarding. You really do get to feel the effect that you have on people and that's wonderful.
Realize that working in a non-profit the budget is very limited and often the need is great. You may not make much money and you have to constantly budget.
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