Academic journal article Field Educator

Inside/Outside Training: A Campus-Based Field Unit Approach for Working with Veterans

Academic journal article Field Educator

Inside/Outside Training: A Campus-Based Field Unit Approach for Working with Veterans

Article excerpt


After over a decade of conflict, 2.4 million military personnel are transitioning home from combat zones, and many are rejoining civilian life (Hassan, 2013). The nation now faces long-term challenges in this transition back to communities where the capacity to support the multiple transitioning needs of military personnel, veterans, and their families may be inadequate. According to Eric Shinseki, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, history indicates that the needs of veterans for services will continue to increase over the next decade or more, as the costs of war continue to increase long after war's end (Dao, 2012).

For social work education, the challenge to support the care of our returning veterans requires training the next generation of service providers. Social work educators must produce a generation of culturally-competent social workers who can serve the needs of this population across many systems of care. Traditionally, social work has had a long history of serving the military population. But Rubin (2012) issued a call to action pointing out that the profession has been slower to respond to the current need for trained social workers to meet the challenges of our veterans and their families. As the Veterans Administration (VA) system strains under the likelihood that as many as one in five veterans and their families face health or behavioral health concerns, veteran service organizations in the community have also indicated increases in demand for services and a lack of sufficient training to deal with the special needs of the population (Dao, 2012; Coll & Weiss, 2013; Rubin, 2012; Selber, Chavkin, & Williams, 2012; Smith-Osborne, 2012). The need for skilled social workers to meet this demand for services is increasing, pushing the profession to develop standards and competencies for work with this population and explore innovative methods for expanding both classroom and field education resources to train competencies for work with this population (CSWE, 2010).

Addressing this gap between an increasing demand for services and an insufficient number of trained service providers will require innovative approaches for enhancing the training capability of schools of social work. The campus environment provides an excellent opportunity for expanding our capabilities for teaching these skills, with the doubling in recent years of veterans entering higher education (Selber, in press). As these veterans transition to campus, they bring with them leadership skills but also challenges from their military experiences. Chief among these challenges are posttraumatic stress, mild traumatic brain injury, depression, relationship difficulties, and substance abuse (Hassan, 2013). The need for social work education to train students to work with military personnel, veterans, and their families coincides well with the needs of campus environments to help transition these student veterans (Selber, in press).

This article reports on the development and implementation of a campus-based, faculty-supervised field unit used to train Bachelor's- and Master's-level social work students to work with military personnel, veterans, and their families. The model starts with working inside of the campus environment by using services provided to student veterans to both respond to the needs of the student veteran population and to teach social workers the competencies they will need to serve the veteran population outside of the campus environment in community veteran service organizations. The authors describe the overall service initiative and the field unit model. This article discusses the lessons learned from field student outcomes and program outcomes. It also presents implications for social work education and practice.

Background: Serving Student Veterans in Higher Education

To help our military personnel and veterans transition into, through, and out of universities will require that universities provide supportive services beyond access to the veterans' educational benefits laid out in the Post-9/11 G. …

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