Considerations When Taking on a Social Work Student
By Selena Bateman, RSW
Not only a benefit to students, the experience of supervising a student can lead to an increased capacity to analyze one’s own work and allow for the exposure to new ideas and approaches. Further, the RSW supervisor can claim the time spent with the student as continuing professional development (CPD) hours.
A key component of social work education is the student practicum which provides the student with field experience. No matter where social work students receive their accredited education in Canada, practicums are required. This field education provides the student with the opportunity to integrate theory into practice.
Registered Social Worker (RSW) supervisors help to guide the development of the student’s critical reflection, decision making and increase their understanding of social work practice. RSW supervisors should possess the ability to communicate their knowledge, respectfully provide feedback and offer a supportive environment for the student learner. For the student, practicum placements allow for the development of competence and of professional identity.
Once oriented and while supervised, the student is able to provide assistance with work tasks. Keep in mind that an RSW supervisor must co-sign records and reports authored by the social work student (Standard of Practice 4.6).
Additionally, RSW supervisors in direct practice must inform clients ahead of time if their information may be shared with the social work student, or if the student will be involved in service provision, in order to provide the client with accurate information in relation to the limits of confidentiality and their ability to make an informed decision (Standard of Practice 5.8).
Typically the supervisor is expected to spend one hour per week in direct supervision with the student, which may or may not be a commitment that each RSW is able to make. Should an RSW take on a student, it is essential that the student is properly supervised. Some of the direct supervision time can be spent reflecting on the Standards of Practice as they relate to current practice concerns in order to familiarize the social work student with the obligations and responsibilities of an RSW.
As settings vary, it is important to consider the complexity and sensitivity of social work tasks. Some places of employment can accommodate social work students with little experience while others would not be as compatible. Consider what type of employment or educational background and strengths a potential student would need to hold in order to successfully participate in a practicum at your place of employment.