Academic journal article Field Educator

Building Confidence in Social Work Interns through an Evidence-Based Practice Seminar during Field Education

Academic journal article Field Educator

Building Confidence in Social Work Interns through an Evidence-Based Practice Seminar during Field Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

Social work field placement is an essential component of the development of clinical skills for MSW students and is where textbook clinical skills and classroom theories are translated into clinical practice (Kanno & Koeske, 2010). Research suggests that students entering the field often report low self-confidence and high anxiety about their ability to deliver quality clinical care, which is unsurprising given that MSW students often have limited prior clinical experiences (Gelman, 2004). As a result, the goal of all field educators is to promote the growth and confidence of each student (Bogo & Vayda, 1998). A high level of clinical support and a variety of training opportunities have been shown to be the most effective ways to enrich the intern training experience and increase intern overall satisfaction with their placement (Giddings, Vodde, & Cleveland, 2004). As such, these principles must form the foundation of our approach as field educators during the development and improvement of learning opportunities for MSW interns.

One key area of importance is the development of students' understanding of evidence-based practices (EBPs). EBP centers on using research findings to help guide clinical decision-making (McCracken & Marsh, 2008). Over the past decade, schools of social work and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) have increasingly emphasized the implementation of EBPs into MSW program curricula. CSWE has stated that teaching MSW students the steps to analyze, interpret and employ research evidence into practice is an essential part of social work education (CSWE, 2008). Although knowledge of EBPs is now considered a fundamental part of social work education, research has demonstrated a disparity between students' knowledge of EBPs and their ability to apply actual evidence-based techniques in clinical practice. This suggests that earlier introduction and trainings around EBPs in clinical training are essential to students' education because it will help new clinicians learn to think clinically from an evidence-based perspective as soon as they begin working directly with patients (Weissman et al., 2006).

One reason for this gap may be because MSW programs tend to prioritize teaching broader theories and research findings over providing opportunities to learn practice-based techniques or specific interventions that have been validated through research (Staller, 2006). This is in part due to the large amount of content that must be covered in MSW programs. Because MSW programs prepare clinically focused students and macro students, all working in a wide variety of settings, programs must teach a broad curriculum at the expense of opportunities to go into greater depth in clinical areas (Fortune, Lee, & Cavazos, 2005). As a result, students and MSW programs rely heavily on field educators to help develop practice-based skills and learn the application of the actual therapeutic techniques supported by EBPs.

This task can sometimes be challenging for field instructors, as field instruction requires a tremendous amount of oversight of each intern and, thus, significant demands on the time of already busy clinicians acting as supervisors. For example, social work field placement supervisors need to help orient students to their agency placement, teach and provide ongoing support to them around administrative matters, conduct supervision to discuss clinical encounters with patients, review process recordings, and discuss case management needs. This supervision typically occurs while field supervisors have to maintain their own clinical and administrative responsibilities with limited reductions in workload (Wayne, Bogo, & Raskin, 2006). This can be further challenging due to the wide range of MSW interns, with respect to past experience and comfort in working in a clinical setting, such that some interns require a higher level of support and more supervision than others. …

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