Chris Conley is a senior clinical specialist in mental health at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLHM). He has been with WLHM for 11 years.
Favourite colour: red/ book: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince/ vacation spot: all around Canada/ music: unique artists like Eric Johnson, Martin Smith, Joel Houston, and The Academy Is…/ animal: pet Crested Gecko named Jolt/ food: pizza!
What made you enter your field of work?
When I first attended McMaster University in 1997, I had planned to be a computer programmer or computer scientist. An Introduction to Social Work class (which I thought would be an ‘easy class’ in my first year – incorrect assumption on my part) unexpectedly ‘hooked me’. Finding solutions to suffering within the human condition became my passion. For the past 15 years I have set my sights on how to help people, most of whom have serious and pervasive mental health problems. I help them move from a life they see as intolerable to a life they see as worth living – one that is full of meaning, purpose, and driven by their values.
“It reminded me that while I may be a treatment provider, I am also part of a larger community and that I mourn along with family members when someone is lost prematurely to death.”
What do you love most about your job?
The best thing about my work is seeing people recover by finding meaning and purpose in their life. Sometimes this occurs as I am working directly with patients individually or in any number of groups that we run. Over the past year we have been implementing a group intervention for patients with significant depression and anxiety. The results appear to be quite promising as we review the data, so that’s great news.
Describe one of your most challenging days at work.
A patient, whose care I was previously involved in, passed away unexpectedly. At the request of the family, the patient’s treating physician at the clinic and I attended the funeral. It reminded me that while I may be a treatment provider, I am also part of a larger community and that I mourn along with family members when someone is lost prematurely to death.
Do you have a mentor or confidant at HHS? Tell us about him/her.
I have full confidence in everyone with whom I work! I especially appreciate the time and direction that the medical director of my clinic shows to me and other staff. He is always diligent in patient care. He is also very attentive and ready to help those who are providing care to others. He goes above and beyond what is required of him each day. This motivates the whole clinic staff to mimic that same zeal in our own work.
I should also mention that the director to whom I report has always been very supportive of the clinic and rarely says no to the creative and ultimately effective solutions that staff devise in response to patient care.
What do you wish you had more time for at work?
At times, I wish I had more time to reflect on the patients and work that has been accomplished, as well as what is still left to happen. I believe each patient feels quite heard and validated but the needs can be endless and I wish I had more time to dedicate to each one. Because of this, being able to write, discuss and reflect on what has been effective and what has not been effective would bring even greater purpose, effectiveness, and meaning to the daily work.
What do you do after work to unwind?
I love to spend time with my 9 year old daughter and the adventures that she is always pursing in the world around her.
Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
I had been working with a patient who had many problems – most of these problems were not her doing. She was so diligent in attending treatment, doing assigned work, and fixing these problems that were interfering with her life. About six months into the treatment we were discussing ‘things that make you glad to be alive.’ She wrote down, ‘when you say that you are proud of the hard work I have been doing.’ Her statement in that moment could have motivated me to keep doing this challenging work for another 10 years!