Dahley Mensah is the Training and Development Executive and Advanced Illness Management Social Worker for the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA). Born in Germany, she moved to London as a young child, to Ghana at ten, then to St. Louis at 18 to be with her father who was a professor at St. Louis University.
Originally a psychology student in undergrad, Dahley went on to get her Master’s in Social Work from SLU and is now working toward her doctorate online at University of California, Berkeley in Social Work Administration.
Her MSW was supposed to be for community work, but every job she’s had has been in the healthcare field. She’s worked at such places as Barnes Hospital, SLU Hospital, Christian Hospital, a nursing home, a home health company, a hospice provider and the Alzheimer’s Association for southern Illinois. Her responsibilities have ranged from social worker to hospital discharge planner to teacher to manager among a whole host of other small roles she has happily filled.
She sought out VNA after a friend who worked with her at another hospice company told her about it, but she already had some knowledge of VNA as one of the few hospice providers that would take patients regardless of their insurance situation. She respected how VNA has genuinely wanted to help people get the care they need, and that belief attracted Dahley to the organization.
Dahley sees her main role as connecting people with resources. “I love informing people of resources because I found out as a social worker and discharge planner that a lot of the time, if people had the resources to begin with, they might not end up in the hospital,” she says. “If they have the resources, whatever job I’m in, they might not even need to see me. So my hope is to put myself out of a job by giving everybody the resources they need.”
Due to COVID-19, she hasn’t gone out into the community to facilitate classes as she normally would. Rather, she’s shifted toward providing representatives with resources to teach their patients and the people they manage on topics related to health or senior services. She ensures people are connected to the resources they need.
Her philosophy is one of being a support, not a crutch. She believes in equipping people with the resources they need to make the best decisions for their lives. Some social workers do it differently and believe in doing things for the people they serve. Dahley will give you all the tools you need and tell you how to walk through it, but she will not do it for you.
Dahley also serves as a counselor for people. She loves to meet new people and listen to them. “When I was working for the Alzheimer’s Association, one of the jobs I did was to be a care consultant. I’m the one who would meet people who had just been diagnosed and their family members. And a lot of the time, people would talk for an hour and tell me their fears and hopes, and they’d tell me they felt like something had been lifted off of their shoulders. That’s the best feeling in the whole world. I’m not saying I did something big, but that somebody has something on their mind that is dragging them, and they talk to me and feel a little better, that makes my whole life.”