All students, regardless of the amount of experience they have had, need an orientation in their Field practice agency. This can be done on an individual or group basis. The purpose of this orientation is to help the student to learn about the agency's program, policies and procedures. It is understood that the student's learning is on-going as he/she is with the agency.
A significant part of this orientation should be learning by doing, by providing services. The student should be given an authentic piece of work to carry out beginning with the first week in the agency. It is suggested that students be given an assignment on the first day in the agency. If the student is going to work with an individual, a case can be available; a group, a narrative on that particular group; a committee, minutes of the committee meeting, etc. This represents a means for the field instructor to test the student's understanding of what is being presented and also to help the student become a part of the agency.
Because of the short period of time that students are placed in agencies in comparison to regular staff, orientation periods, in some cases, may have to be of shorter duration.
If agencies are mandated to provide extensive orientations to all students involved in service delivery, they must notify the school when placement negotiations are initiated. Students' participation in planning and carrying out orientation is encouraged, if appropriate.
Students are expected to receive a specific orientation to agency policies and procedures regarding risk management. If the field instructor does not provide this orientation, students must ask for it. Students should also learn about the agency’s informal methods for assessing and handling risky situations.
Each situation is different, but the guidelines that follow may generally apply in the management of potentially dangerous situations:
- Appreciate realistic limitations. Be reasonable about what is and is not possible. Know when to stay and leave. (A sound preventive approach is to avoid seeing clients with reputations for unprovoked assaults or those in acute paranoid psychotic distress in an empty office without back-up staff or security available.)
- Keep your work area as safe as possible, keeping it clear of items that could be harmful to anyone involved in a physical intervention. For example, keep objects which can be used as weapons (e.g., ashtrays, sharp objects, a hot cup of coffee) away from potentially aggressive clients.
- Where possible, alert available staff members that assistance may be needed before entering the crisis situation.
- Act calmly. Keep the scream out of your voice. An emotional or aggressive response to a distraught individual is likely to reinforce that person’s aggression. Remember, clients and other who are violent are often reacting to feelings of helplessness and loss of control. Therefore, you need to be in control of the situation.
- Take a non-threatening posture to avoid appearing confrontational, but take a protected posture as well. This usually means standing slightly sideways to the individual, at a safe distance away from sudden lunges, punches, and kicks, with arms and hands held near the upper body for possible quick self-protection. Avoid a stare-down by periodically breaking eye contact.
- Don’t walk away from the individual who is escalating. Acknowledge the individual’s feelings and attempt to talk them down. Encouraging the individual to sit down. Encouraging the individual to sit down may sufficiently delay or divert the possibility of attack. Usually, a one-to-one situation with available staff at a distance works well. The most appropriate staff member to be with the individual is the one who has the best rapport with them, not necessarily the staff with the most authority or rank.
- Observe the progress of the aggression and the stages of escalation. Identify those actions on your part, which serve to calm and those that serve to inflame the individual, and act accordingly.
- Avoid sudden movements or the issuance of strident commands, as these may only inflame the individual. Whenever possible, allow the individual to make behavioral choices. Directives or alternatives should be stated concretely and in terms of actions which can be performed immediately. Depending on the cognitive abilities of the individual, limit-setting may take two forms;
- Direct: state clearly and specifically the required or prohibited behavior.
- Indirect: allow the individual to choose between two acceptable behavioral alternatives.
- Do not touch the individual unless you are willing to restrain them; and only when there is sufficient staff power to do so in a manner consistent wit the agency’s take-down or containment policies.
- In the event of physical intervention, where the individual is placed in a quiet room or in seclusion, the isolation should be as brief as possible. Placing an individual in isolation will not help them learn about the experience during this critical learning period. The verbal and cognitive work begins here in furthering a client’s understanding and ability in predicting their own violent impulses.
In order for a student to have the optimum educational field practice experience, it is essential that he/she attend selected administrative meetings. In general, the student should attend those meetings the purpose of which is to interpret or evaluate agency programs, services and procedures, or to convey areas of knowledge essential to offering a specific service. This is seen as including agency board meetings, agency staff meetings, staff committee involvement, inter-disciplinary group meetings, joint staff-board committees and inter-agency meetings. While not every student would have the opportunity for every such experience, the participation should be selectively determined in line with agency practice and related to agency purpose and service. If agencies can meet the above requirements, students should be told at the placement interview that their attendance is an expectation and supported by the School.
The agency is expected to consider the student's level of readiness and progression of experience in determining his/her participation in agency meetings, but this participation is viewed as essential to students learning. As is true of all other assignments, attendance at meetings should be followed by discussion in supervisory conference to help the student to connect it with the whole of his field practice experience.
Supervision of students can be a very exciting, challenging and demanding activity. In most instances, assuming responsibility for students' supervision is an addition to one's on-going duties. Although many other persons in the field practice agency will be called upon to provide educational experiences, the student's immediate field instructor is the key person responsible for the student's learning in the field. Because of this, certain criteria should be considered in taking on this educational function.
A. Basic Requirements for being a Field Instructor
- A Master of Social Work degree from an accredited school of social work plus two years of post-master's practice experience.
- An aptitude for conceptualizing and demonstrating practice knowledge and skills and the ability to stimulate the same in students.
- Acknowledge an understanding of agency's program and service delivery methods.
- A depth of practice knowledge and understanding of a broad range of methods.
- Ability to identify and teach principles and concepts from specific practice tasks.
- Ability to evaluate and influence the delivery of services.
- Support of the agency and/or program administrator.
- Willingness and agency support for participating in the field instructor's course offered by the School.
- Demonstrated ability to carry the supervisory role and/or experience in supervision. The School would prefer persons who have had some experience in supervising students, although exceptions can be
- Completion of forms which provide the school with educational and employment experiences of the field instructor.
B. What the School Expects from Field Instructors
- To design an educational experience with student input appropriate for a student as a learner. This includes:
- identifying what the student wants to learn
- identifying what knowledge the student is seeking
- assisting the student's integration of classroom learning and field practice experiences.
- To provide the student with information and material about the agency programs and help
students to examine the program objectively and critically.
- To keep the student appraised of progress in individual conferences and other teaching
situations. This includes:
- examining with student his/her professional growth
- helping the student to identify his/her learning regardless of who is responsible for primary field assignments
- sharing in the communication process with faculty, primarily the student's practice instructor. The field instructor is not expected to take on a therapeutic role with the student. If it seems this kind of situation is developing, the supervisor should contact the practice instructor with the student being aware of contact.
- To prepare each semester the student evaluation in collaboration with the student.
- To arrange for agency space and support services for the student.
- To schedule weekly conferences with students to:
- examine practice and accountability issues
- to review supervisory conference agendas prepared by the student
- to use students' recordings or other case material as methods of examining students' learning.
- Field instructors are encouraged to participate in School related activities such as team meetings, committees, field council, symposia, work shops, etc.
C. What Field Instructors Can Expect from the School
- To enhance communication between field instructors and practice teachers.
- To alert the field instructor if student's academic progress and status are in jeopardy.
- To provide advanced notice of meetings where field instructor's presence is warranted.
- To explain expectations about the supervisory role in relation to student's educational process (e.g., clarity of field practice days and assistance in student learning experiences).
- To provide background information on the student prior to the beginning of the placement.
D. What to Expect from Students
- To promptly and accurately report absences from agency.
- To secure clearance from field instructors for material to be presented in class as representative of the agency's purpose, policies and procedures.
- pare for supervisory conferences, including submitting an agenda.
- To seek clarity in gaining an understanding of work assignment.
- To demonstrate a commitment to offering services within agency structure.
- To record in case records consistent with agency procedure and develop process recording for learning purposes.
- To offer constructive suggestions for agency service improvement.
- To demonstrate professional conduct as a representative of the agency in carrying out agency business.
- To comply with agency rules and regulations with reference to field practice.
- To bring to the attention of his/her primary field instructor and faculty advisor difficulties which the student is encountering in field practice.
- Students are not permitted to transport clients in their own vehicles.
All agencies receive official placement materials from the Director of Field Placements for each student. This material should be forwarded to the individual the agency designates as responsible for the student's supervision, and to other significant staff as warranted. Most of the transaction is handled by mail though individual situations may warrant telephone contact or meetings between the School and the Agency. Most often this communication takes place between the Director of Field Education and the designated agency person.
A. Placement of Foundation Students
- Communication with the Agency
- Materials sent to the agency:
- letter recommending the student to the agency
- information about the student's educational background and priorexperience
- placement confirmation forms, one of which is to be returned to the School as soon as a decision is made by student and placement agency; the othercopy is for the agency.
- Communication with the Student
- Materials sent to the student:
- students new to the agency are sent the name, address and telephone number of the person with whom they are to communicate to arrange an appointment to discuss their placements.
- The School is aware that all agencies request interviews but in some cases, where the student is coming from a distant location, other methods of discussing placement may be necessary, i.e. telephone conversation or lengthy correspondence pending the student's arrival for school.
- Current employees moving into a student role should contact the person in charge of field practice at the agency to discuss placement arrangements.
B. Placement of Advanced Students: Roles & Procedures
- Role of the Foundation Practice Instructor: Foundation Practice instructors discuss with students' official input into their educational program as it relates to placements. Placement of Advanced students normally begins in spring of the preceding school year. A student’s Educational Advisor and the Director of Field Education may also be consulted.
- The Practice Instructor notifies the Director of Field Education of recommended agency(ies) for Advanced year. The instructor and the student plan together the student's educational goals with emphasis on needs, career interests and student's ability.
- The Practice Instructor forwards to the Director of Field Education a summary on the student which is forwarded to the agency with placement materials, this summary includes: (l) biographical information; (2) placement interest.
- Confirmation statements are given to students and agencies for completion and returned to the Director of Field Education.
- Procedures for Students Remaining in the Same Agency for the Advanced Placement
- Occasionally students remain in the same agency placement for both years of the practicum. In planning an Advanced placement for students who continue in the same agency, the following factors are important for students who are not employed by the agency as well as those who are currently or were previously employed by the agency:
There may be some exceptions to the above, but these should be made only after thorough discussion and review has occurred among the Foundation practice instructor, the Director of Field Education, appropriate agency personnel and the student.
- assignment to a different field instructor for the Advanced placement;
- assignment to a different division or service of agency, if possible.
- For educational reasons some students' placements must be changed during the year. To the extent possible, it is hoped that students who are changed during the Foundation year will be allowed to remain in the new agency for their Advanced placement in order to maintain continuity for learning, provided the placements continue to meet students' learning objectives.
- Advanced year field placement assignments can not be changed after August 1st, unless
there are mitigating circumstances.
C. Guidelines for Using a Worksite as a Field Placement
- Requirements for Work Study
- Student must be admitted to our program.
- The student must be able to function as a social worker in a social agency.
- The student must be employed at the agency for at least 6 months prior to the beginning of the field placement and have passed the probationary period and be considered a permanent employee.
- The employer, with full knowledge of the school requirements of the student, must indicate a willingness to provide the student with this opportunity.
- The student may request to do one or two years of placement at the agency as long as
she/he has a different field placement assignment each year.
- Field Placement
- The agency must provide an appropriate field instructor for the time that is considered field placement. The field instructor must hold an MSW and have at least 2 years postgraduate experience. It is preferable that the field instructor be a regular employee of the agency. When this is not possible a field instructor may be a volunteer professional. A field instructor who is not a regular employee of the agency must have full access to the student work including client records. Whenever possible the employing supervisor should not serve as the field instructor. If the MSW supervisor is a volunteer professional, not employed by the agency, than an arrangement should be made for a task supervisor/employee of the agency to be available on-site during the period in which the employee is carrying out their field placement.
- The agency must be willing to reassign the student to different activities for the portion of the work week that will be considered field placement time. Whenever possible it is best to reassign the student to a different section or unit within the agency. The field assignment needs to challenge the student to develop new skills.
- Whenever possible the employer is encouraged to pay the student’s full salary for time spent on field placement
- The student is required to complete a minimum of 630 hours of field placement per year in order to pass practice class. No final grade for the second semester practice class will be given until 630 hours of field placement are completed.
- Although the number of hours per week may fluctuate the student must spend at least 16 hours per week in field activities.The student may have to extend field placement into the summer to meet the school’s requirements.
- A schedule of field placement hours will be identified and placed in the student’s file.
- For students who are not currently employed as a social worker or do not want to use their job as their field placement, the following procedures apply
- For students who choose to do their field placements outside of their place of employment at an approved (by the School’s Field Education Department) field placement site during the evening and/or weekends, a schedule (days and times) of when they will be at their field placement site must also be placed in their file at the school and given to their practice instructor/field liaison.
- Although the number of hours per week may fluctuate the student must spend at least
16 hours per week in field activities. The student may have to extend field placement
into the summer to meet the school’s requirements.
- Employed Practitioners Program
- To be eligible for this program, the student must be currently employed on a full-time
basis and have at least 2 two years of supervision by an MSW
- Students accepted into this program take two courses per semester (including summers). In the second year of study (Pre-Residency Year), students must complete a field lab duringthe fall and spring semester. In the third year of study (Residency year), students must fulfill 900 hours of supervised field placement at their place of employment from September to May.
D. Confirmation of Placement - Foundation and Advanced Students
- The agency and the student receive letters of placement confirmation which are to bereturned to the Director of Field Education as soon as a joint decision has been reached. When the signed "confirmation of placement" has been completed and returned, this is presumed to complete the agreement between School and Agency for a student's field practice assignment. Implicit in this agreement is that the agency is aware of and prepared to meet the School's requirements and adhere to the conditions of the placement. It is assumed the School is prepared to honor its arrangement.
- Should either the School or agency find it impossible to fulfill the terms of the agreement, there must be immediate communication with the Director of Field Education and the agency person responsible for students’ placements. In these situations, the core consideration will be the educational interests of the student. The School and the agency will need to work together on how such problems can be resolved with minimal upset tothe agency and the client groups.
- It is the intent, all things considered, that a student will remain in placement for at least one academic year, unless the student's educational program warrants different arrangements.
A. Factors Determining Continuing Collaboration
Responsibility for collaboration with agencies with respect to the broad aspects of field placement rests with Director of Field Education. Individual student experience is the responsibility of the student's current practice instructor in consultation with the Director of Field Education. Factors mutually considered in continuing the collaboration with an agency are:
- Availability of appropriate students for placement at the agency.
- The agency's continued capacity to meet criteria for professional education.
- Evaluation of the impact of student involvement on agency.
The process of planning for Fall begins in the previous Spring. There is an exchange of information between the school and the agency. A memo from the Director of Field Education is sent to the agency asking that the following information be sent to the school:
- Kinds of educational opportunities available in the agency and the number of students that can be accommodated.
- Names and qualifications of persons being recommended as field instructors.
- Different kinds of field practice assignments, appropriate for new and continuing students.
- ility of stipends and other resources (i.e., room and board).
C. Agency Visits and Conferences
The Director of Placement and staff from the Placement Department visit agencies, as time permits, for conferences with administrators, field instructors and other significant agency staff to consider factors relating to School-agency collaboration in social work education.
Conferences are held with each agency in which students have been placed for the first time to examine the experience for agency and school.
A conference between the School and agency is also essential if there has been a lapse of time since the agency last offered field placements, or if there is a change of executive or a major change in program.
Conferences with all agencies are planned on a rotating basis as feasible or as circumstances warrant. Much of the planning for placements is done by exchange of correspondence, by telephone, or by e-mail.
D. Problems Regarding Continuing Collaboration
If serious question arises at either the agency or the School regarding the continuation of placements or use of a field instructor, a conference is arranged with appropriate members of the agency's staff and the School’s Director of Field Education.
When serious problems around a field practice assignment arise during the academic year, a conference of appropriate faculty is arranged by the Director of Field Education. If indicated this is followed by a conference with agency personnel, including the agency's Director of Field Practice, and the executive, if appropriate. Arrangements for such a School-agency conference are made by the Director of Field Education.
Agencies are asked to inform the Director of Field Education when there are any problems in meeting criteria for continued collaboration.
It is the intent of the School that a student will remain in a placement for at least one academic year. Circumstances sometimes arise, however, which necessitate a change in placements. These circumstances may be agency-, student- or School- based.
- School Responsibility
- The practice instructor along with the field instructor and student will try to resolve any problems that arise before considering change of placement. In the event that they are unresolvable, the student's current practice instructor will contact the agency, field instructor and the Director of Field Education about the need to change the student's placement.
- The field instructor will be given an explanation for the need for a change and will be involved in the termination of the field placement, if it is necessary.
- Agency Responsibility
- The student's field instructor should notify the student's current practice instructor. If, for any reason, the field instructor is unable to notify the practice instructor, the Director of Field Education should be contacted.
- The field instructor is responsible for notifying significant agency personnel.
- Student Responsibility
- If a student believes there is a valid reason for a change in field placement, he/she may take the initiative to discuss the possible change with the practice instructor, who is responsible for discussing the matter with the agency and the Director of Field Education.
- The student is expected to carry out his/her assignment in a professional manner until the placement is officially terminated unless there are some unusual circumstances. If such circumstances occur, the field instructor is responsible for communicating them to the student's practice instructor.
- Because of the limited time that a student is in placement, changes should be made in a manner which affords the student continuity in his/her educational process, as well as continuity in services to clients.