Pro's corner : Josée Francoeur
– Interview with an expert in medico-social intervention in designated centers –
My name is Josée Francoeur. I have worked as a social worker for 33 years at the CISSS de la Côte-Nord in Sept-Îles and Port-Cartier, but have been based primarily in Port-Cartier for the past 30 years. Since Port-Cartier is a small town, there are fewer social workers available, which is why I have been called on to intervene in difficult, tragic situations involving death and the death of children. I’ve developed a lot of expertise over the years, so I’m often asked to look after those types of interventions.
I have been a member of the multidisciplinary council (conseil multidisciplinaire - CM) and have sat on the board of directors of the CIUSSS for the past 10 years. Since 2000, after the flood in the Saguenay, I have also worked as a consultant in civil security.
In 2018, after learning how to use the forensic kit, I began doing on-call psychosocial duty. Port-Cartier isn’t a very big place, so we don’t get many cases. Since services were integrated, however, we’ve been getting more, mainly in Sept-Îles.
Why did you want to become a social worker?
I’m the kind of person who likes to be involved. I’m aiming for 40 years of service!
Could you tell us about one of the professional challenges you had to face while working with designated centres?
We recently had to deal with a case of sexual assault on a young man. Before that, I had always had cases where the victim was a woman, a teenage girl or a little girl. This intervention was very different. The intake procedure was the same—explaining how the intervention would proceed, describing the contents of the forensic kit, and so on—but there were things I didn’t know about collecting samples in that kind of situation. The nurse and I really had to put our heads together and work as a team. The victim was more comfortable having women do the intervention, but the visiting on-call physician happened to be a man. Since our centre is in a small town, it wasn’t possible for us to call in another (woman) physician. The nurse and I worked hard to provide the victim with support throughout the intervention. The doctor was very understanding, and we all took the time to clearly explain every step in the procedure. Although it took us longer than usual to prepare the kit, the victim seemed satisfied with the service he received.
Although that was a real challenge, it was a good challenge, because now, if we get another similar case, we’ll be more comfortable. After difficult interventions like that one, I always meet with my little team and, without naming the victim, I go over the various steps in the intervention to make sure we’re on top of things.
After conducting a difficult medico-social intervention with a victim of sexual assault, what is your favourite way to decompress and clear your head?
Since I hope to be able to continue working for several more years, I make sure that I do what I need to do to make that happen. I’m a very active person. A few years ago, I became a vegetarian, and I have the impression that my health has benefited from that change. For several years, I led Zumba, aerobic dance and stretching classes. I also find that it’s important to do volunteer work in order to give back to others.
A little while ago, I gave myself the gift of two big dogs, and they sure keep me active!
We usually take a week-long annual vacation down south … but the pandemic put the kibosh on that this year.
Practising self-care comes pretty naturally to me, I guess!
What is it that motivates you to keep working with sexual assault victims?
When I learned that such a service existed and that my team and I could get training in doing interventions with sexual assault victims, we jumped at the opportunity.
I have a daughter who is grown up now, but if she had ever had an experience like that, I would have liked to know that there was someone who could take her in and provide those services. I also think about other mothers and fathers who have a child to whom such a terrible thing could happen. I am proud to know that victims will be received by a team that will respect them. That’s my motivation right there.
The longer we wait to ask for help, the greater the collateral damage. Our team can really help reduce those damages.
What advice would you give someone who was just starting to do medico-social intervention at a designated centre?
You have to do the training, but afterwards it’s important not to hesitate to talk to colleagues who have already done interventions and ask questions. Also—this is directed to administrators—I recommend that new team members always be accompanied by an experienced colleague when doing their first intervention. Our co-workers can really help us to see what we’ve done well and where we might have slipped up. That kind of support can give beginners more confidence during the intervention and inspire them to continue.
On a more personal note …
Latest good books Josée has read:
La Liste: on a tous droit au meilleur de la vie by Jérémy Lemay.
Last good movie she saw:
The Intern with Robert De Niro.
Her favourite song:
Lonely by Justin Bieber.
Her favourite quote:
"The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience." By Mahatma Gandhi.
Her dream travel destination:
When I retire, my first trip will be to Vancouver by train !!