Ethical Challenges of Military Social Workers Serving in a Combat Zone

By Simmons, Catherine A.; Rycraft, Joan R. | Social Work, January 2010 | Go to article overview

Ethical Challenges of Military Social Workers Serving in a Combat Zone


Simmons, Catherine A., Rycraft, Joan R., Social Work


Military social workers constitute a remarkable subgroup of the social work profession, one that routinely experiences unique professional and ethical challenges. Among the most obvious of these is practicing social work in a combat environment. Faced with austere and often dangerous conditions, military social workers perform the balancing act of trying to meet the needs of their military member clients while continuing to meet the greater needs of the combat mission they are assigned to support. Issues concerning privacy, boundaries, and limited resources are not uncommon in the severe conditions in which deployed military social workers practice. In addition, in combat areas, military social workers operate in an environment governed by rules that are significantly more rigid than those encountered in the civilian sector. From the unique paradigms in which military social workers practice their craft, questions about how they address the ethical challenges inherent with their wartime mission arise. Using a concept mapping design, the current qualitative phenomenological study addressed some of the ethical challenges faced by 24 military social workers who were deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF [combat operations in Afghanistan]).

MILITARY SOCIAL WORK

Professional social workers have been working with the U.S. military since World War I and as uniformed members of the military since World War II (Daley, 1999). The profession as we know it today was first recognized in November 1943, when the Army designated psychiatric social work as a separate job category (called a "specialty code") and appointed the first social work consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army (Garber & McNelis, 1995). In the half century that followed, military social work practice evolved into a well-defined career choice for master's (that is, MSW and MSSW) trained social workers (Garber & McNelis, 1995). Currently, over 300 social workers serve in U.S. active duty and reserve forces (Daley, 1999, 2003). In addition to their noncombat jobs working in the areas of domestic violence, substance abuse, medical social work, family support, and both inpatient and outpatient mental health, all active duty social workers prepare to work in wartime situations. It is important to note that because military social workers are part of the medical branch of military service, they are technically considered noncombatants, meaning they do not engage in the actual fighting. However, military social workers regularly deploy to combat areas, where they provide mental health prevention and treatment services to the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are fighting a war and often need them for support. While practicing in these combat areas, military social workers, unsurprisingly, regularly face ethical challenges.

Military Ethics and Social Work Ethics

On the surface, military ethics and social work ethics are remarkably similar. Both depend on sets of ethical values that focus on personal conduct and service. Although each military branch encompasses its own set of core values, the Armed Forces of the United States has encapsulated the basic ethical values for all service members as honesty, integrity, loyalty, accountability, fairness, caring, respect, promise keeping, responsible citizenship, and pursuit of excellence (Powers, 2006). Likewise, the NASW (1996) Code of Ethics outlines social work's core values as service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. On the level of abstraction generated by such one-concept values, similarities prevail. However, in the larger context of the two professions, stark contrasts exist. Among the most salient of these is the social work value of social justice, a concept relatively contrary to the military practice of sacrificing individual freedom for the greater good of society. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Ethical Challenges of Military Social Workers Serving in a Combat Zone
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.