NSU social work alumna helping healthcare professionals

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Jennifer Burch

After earning her degree in social work, Jennifer Burch had a big decision to make. The Northwestern State University graduate knew she wanted to work with people and needed to find a way to best utilize her talent. After a lot of thought, she decided to earn a Master’s in Social Work and Burch is now the Director of Graduate Medical Education at Baton Rouge General Medical Center.

“My desire to promote social justice was the main reason I became interested in the field of Social Work,” said Burch. “I briefly considered a law degree, but I believed that social work would give me the opportunity to make a bigger impact. Also, the ability to work in such a large variety of settings was a huge plus for me.”

Burch, a 2001 social work graduate, says her work is largely managerial. She directs and administers the graduate and undergraduate medical education programs at Baton Rouge General. Her primary goal is to ensure compliance with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education requirements for residency training. She is responsible for over 85 employees, including administrative staff,  physician faculty and residents and oversees the management of a residency primary care practice.

“There is a large physician and student well-being component to my work,” said Burch. “Among resident physicians, rates of suicides, depression, and burnout are higher than the rest of the population. I spend a lot of time working to prioritize resident wellness and ensure that patient care is not compromised by residents or students who are unable to cope with the inevitable stress that comes with training programs.”

Burch says she works closely with residents to foster resilience through various methods, including mindfulness training, retreats and protected time off. Burch is available around-the-clock for crisis intervention or referrals to mental health practitioners.

Burch says the social work faculty at Northwestern “pushed us out of our comfort zones” in classes and training.

“My professors brought different perspectives and experiences to our discussions and studies,” she said. “The additional training I received through the Title IV-E Child Welfare program and field placement really prepared me for direct practice.”

For more information on Northwestern State’s degree program in social work, go to nsula.edu/socialwork.