A representation of junior and senior social work students showcased their BSW field education experiences for the St. Kate’s and St. Thomas communities. During the poster session, these students described some of the highlights of these experiences, including the skills they developed and how their placements informed and shaped their professional development.
The most powerful part of this experience was my supervisor. He brings light to a very dark place. He is a compassionate, empathetic, gentle man. This placement in intake child services represented my dream job. It confirmed my interest and solidified what I hope to do. Why? It boils down to intent and ability to impact children and families in a positive way. In these situations, it can sometimes seem black and white, but it's not. To be able to help guide people in a way that will improve their whole situation is great. To be able to be present and listen and impact a child's life in a positive way is amazing.
My favorite part of this placement was being with the kids. A lot of time I worked with the families as well, and I needed to learn how to make it a "bigger conversation" to include the parents and others. I also learned to match the mood and environment of the group. However, what I most enjoyed was the "smaller" connections with the kids. These interactions were extremely satisfying.
This placement solidified my interest in working with children. I already knew this is where I was headed and this experience provided me with valuable new skills. It was great to work on an interprofessional team with medical professionals and other social workers with whom I could share ideas and gain different perspectives.
The biggest impact of my field placement was the confidence it gave me. I was able to learn and expand my knowledge base, and connect people with the resources they needed using a holistic approach to best support them for long-term effect.
This program was extremely collaborative in nature. All of the medical services were in one place, which allowed us to take a multi-disciplinary approach and connect clients with other resources immediately. Having centralized services was so effective for the clients, who might otherwise have difficulty making it to multiple appointments because of transportation, time off, or other commitments.
We worked with families in the initial stages of parenting, supporting their transition during the earliest stages of their child's life. I've always wanted to work with families and now realize that I'm open to working with families at an even earlier stage than what I was thinking.
I used a lot of group facilitation skills and loved the group work skills class. When a mom is supported, it can change her whole outlook to "I CAN do this!" I used research and the ability to find resources to determine the best practices to use with clients. I also applied a lot of self-care to my teaching work with the moms, helping them understand the importance of taking time for "self" in being an effective parent.
Hearing these students' stories has made a big impact on me. Even though I went to a nearby high school, these students have had completely different experiences. Many of them aren't living in stable circumstances; often not living with their parents; often responsible for their siblings; often needing to work to support their families.
I wanted to work in a school with adolescents this year since my Junior placement was with adults. This placement has been somewhat difficult because I am similar in age to many of the students. Strong personal connections are important. Recently, I started a young women's group in which we talk about what it means to be a woman, self-care, and other topics introduced by the group.
I use a lot of communication and interviewing skills gained in class and have been able to apply my knowledge of working in crisis situations. I work in an interdisciplinary team with teachers, nurses, and other professionals, which has given me a good perspective on both education and health, and made me realize how much I enjoy working in a team environment.
I had a strong geriatric background, so learning about working with different populations – especially immigrants and refugees – was a huge learning curve for me. Now I’m much more comfortable working with a wide variety of populations. Working with teams of BSW and MSW students was great because we were able to bounce ideas off of each other. We had a lot of interaction with the law students, which was interesting because they were usually not exactly sure what social workers do, so there was a lot of educating them about our profession and what social workers bring to the table. I learned a lot about professional communication across disciplines, especially related to working with personality types very different from my own. I am now more interested in working clinically with those who have Alzheimers and dementia.
My experience working with both clinical social workers and counselors opened my eyes to new opportunities in social work and it feels like I have more options open to me now.
This placement built on a lot of the skills I developed last year, including building rapport, documentation, and crisis management. My supervisor allowed me to make mistakes and provided a save place to experience the emotions I felt when working with upsetting ideas, such as suicidal ideation. I grew as a person and I was encouraged to be authentic.
I worked with adults, all over 18, who had been referred to this program. I worked with two group therapists and two psychiatrists. The program was very team-centered and once per week I met with the doctors and therapists to develop the cohesive plan for each client. I felt valued by the doctors - they really cared what the social workers thought.
This field placement gave me formal experience working with adults with mental illness and helped me learn about my personal style of practice. I was surprised at how naturally it came to me and that I knew more than I thought I did. I was able to see the clients' issues through a social work lens and really apply the planned change process.
It can be intimidating working with these populations, comprised primarily of adults with serious, persistent mental illness. There are some personal biases and societal stigma attached to many of the illnesses faced by these populations. This placement enabled me to see these individuals "in their environments" and the strengths that they do have.
This placement has made me more sure that I want to work in mental health. I've been thinking I want to work with kids, but it has also shown me that I might want to work with adults in the future as well.
My supervisor was amazing and made sure I was getting what I wanted out of the experience. Going into it, I thought I wanted to work with the elderly population and now I'm sure that I do. It solidified what I wanted to do and gave me exposure to hospice, which is where I think I want to go [with my career].
My grandparents raised me. My grandpa got sick with pancreatic cancer and we had a social worker come in with hospice and she was amazing - so caring – and made sure all of our needs were met and questions answered. She corrected any problems that were going on and I had a whole conversation with her about what she does and I realized that that's what I want to do: help people work through different problems, coordinate different resources. She helped me realize that death isn't really the end of everything, and that there's a lot that goes into helping people die with dignity that others don't think about, but that social workers think about...so I decided that's what I wanted to do.
[This placement] really opened my eyes to people who are living in poverty - what that looks like and what those challenges are. I really got on the advocacy train. So many of our clients were on MFIP (MN Family Investment Program: MN's program that assists low-income families with children to economic stability through work) on $437 per month and trying to find housing, pay their bills, and live a sustainable lifestyle...and it's absolutely NOT doable.
There are two areas I'm interested in: one is the education piece for these types of clients: getting them more education and job training so they can get out of poverty; the other is advocacy: what can we do to raise the minimum wage? what can we do to make MFIP more sustainable for families?
I've been working in a youth development program, mostly working with high schoolers. I'm a career and college counselor and so we work on increasing opportunities for our youth. It's been great working with teens. At first it was a little intimidating since I wasn't sure how they'd react with me since I'm only 21, but it's been a great experience learning how to interact with them… [It’s been ] great "group work "experience, talking in front of people, and learning how to engage a group versus individuals. My favorite part is working with the teenagers, and it's been a great experience since I hope to one day be a school counselor - and so it's been a good fit for me.
I managed a case load of 25 to 30 youth and I worked with them to meet the recommendations that they had been given from the court. I met with each client every two weeks and I worked with them to assess for: needs, strengths, and barriers. From there, we created a case plan to meet the needs that were presented and we took the opportunity to use their time on probation to meet the needs that they had.
[I used] a lot of communication and interviewing skills, working with clients who don't necessarily want to talk with you, and really building relationships with them; really meeting them "where they're at,” and celebrating the "small successes." I definitely used the "strengths-perspective."
What I enjoyed most was seeing youth succeed and get off of probation, and really getting a feel for what they wanted to do with their lives. A lot of times youth came in on the case load very resistant, but by the end, through the relationship we built with them, you're really a team and you're working together.
I'm really interested in the criminal justice system and how kids are being routed into the system, so I want to take my experience forward and try to work with youth in more of a community-building way, to do some preventative measures before they get into the system.
I think that social work is the best major because it looks at every person in a holistic way. It looks at the bio-psycho-social and evaluates what's really going on and meets every person where they're at, individually.
Some exciting things we've done included working on a bill that [was introduced] this session, so we've been able to attend hearings. Going to the Capitol has been really eye-opening and amazing macro-work [practice], in addition to the micro-work we've been doing with our groups. [We’ve had] a lot of opportunities to work in groups, which allowed us to practice the “planned change process” from beginning to end. We also [utilized] a lot of written communication skills… [including] grant writing and fundraising opportunities.
Working in a prison setting was a really unique way to see the way that macro policies affect the lives of clients on a micro-level. Another interesting thing was applying theory to practice in such a unique context as incarceration. It really offered a lot of practical application of the theory we learned in class.
I used all the skills from our "Communication and Interviewing" class because I had to ask a lot of hard questions. I also got to use professional skills. Working on an interdisciplinary team can be very challenging because every profession has different ethics and a different point of view, so my communication and interviewing skills came in handy when talking with some of my co-workers as well. Using accessible language with families - not using jargon - is a skill that I worked on. I also used a lot of family systems theory to look at what systems are impacting the family's life - both positive and negative - and ways that I could intervene to help the family.
One of the things I really appreciated about the placement was that we were given a lot of freedom and a lot of opportunities for leadership. One of the biggest projects that was thought of and executed by the field students was the "flash mob" at the State Capitol. The whole process was really exhilarating.
The other thing that this placement did for me was to show me that this was a possible career path and that it is a social work career path. We hear a lot about the number of clinical and case worker jobs available to social workers, but seeing that you can get a social work degree and do this type of [policy] work and that there are jobs available… It solidified for me that I want to be working with communities.
We worked with several different organizations and with businesses. The way we engaged with people was very different depending on who we were talking to, so we had to learn to change the way that we established relationships with people, depending on their role and our role. A huge part of advocacy, when it gets down to campaigning, is that HOW you educate people is really important. Sometimes we look at issues on a very large scale and they seem too massive to tackle. So we broke things down on a day-to-day basis and that was something that makes the issues feel like you can do something about them. So whether it's calling your legislator, or doing a presentation about minimum wage, or having conversations with your family members or a person in your economics class...THOSE are the things that are huge tools that we don't usually think about and that we used on a day-to-day basis [in this placement].