Didn’t feel like sleeping and am currently facing a lot of difficulties generating ideas for my moral psychology essay and so I thought I might as well spend my time more productively doing something (aka writing this) that I have been wanting to do for awhile.
The main reason why I am writing this is because, prior to doing my placement, I felt really lost, nervous and unsure what to expect. I went in to my first placement like a blank slate, which wasn’t really helpful and I hope that this post could help to ease some of your anxiety and maybe, help you prepare better for your upcoming placement. Not sure if anyone will read this, but I shall just pen down my thoughts. 🙂
*Disclaimer: Before you continue, do note that all the content below are my subjective experience of placement which may or may not apply to you. It is also likely to vary depending on the agencies and supervisors that you are posted to. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. Please take my words with a pinch of salt. Thanks.
It feels weird to be writing a “module review” for SW3101A and SW3104 because this 2 modules are internship modules for NUS Social Work students and I am not sure how to write a proper”review” on an internship without sounding too specific (to my own experience)/convoluted/incoherent/confusing, but I shall try.
For Social Work Freshies in NUS, just in case you guys haven’t already know, all social work majors in NUS are required to complete 2 placements during their school term in NUS. The placements will take place during summers, with each placement lasting 400 hours. All the administrative details about how to bid for placement etc will be provided by the department nearer to the dates, so I shan’t elaborate further. However, what I will be discussing about in the sections below are some of the things that I have learnt from my internship and the things that I wished I knew before starting placement.
Background info: For those who are curious, I am a psychology and social work double major (AY15/16). I completed my first placement (SW3101A) at Ang Mo Kio FSC and my second placement at Dover Park Hospice. In the first placement, most of the settings/options provided to students are usually the family service centres (FSCs) and opportunities to work in specialized settings (e.g. MSW, CP, Youth work) will be given to those in the second placement (SW3104).
Tip #1: Read the placement requirement and NOTE ALL THE DEADLINES
I am not kidding when I say that there is a lot of work to be done at the start of the placement. There are administrative work from the school as well as tons of readings (depending on your agency) for the first week. If I remembered correctly , we were required to work with our supervisors to submit a learning contract to the school within the first 2 weeks of placement, scan it to the school, prepare for mid placement supervision, do up our time sheet recording, get supervisors approval to use client’s case for report writing etc. This can be coupled with the work you have to do for the placement, such as daily reflection, case recordings, intake, home visit etc. Given that there are so many requirements and things to be done, it is important for you to READ THROUGH THE PLACEMENT BOOKLET, KNOW ALL THE APPENDICES and NOTE ALL DEADLINE! Having an idea of all the deadline can help you feel more prepared and you can plan all the administrative work into your supervision session with your supervisors. DO NOT WAIT FOR YOUR SUPERVISORS TO REMIND YOU!
*Also, since there are so many things to be done, getting yourself a good scheduler really helps!
Tip #2: Adding on to the first point, LEARN HOW TO PRIORITIZE!!!
Okay, I don’t know how to better emphasize on this point, but having the skills and the ability to prioritize your work is SUPER IMPORTANT ok! From my experience in an FSC, I realized that there are a lot of paperwork and preparation work to be done before and after Information and Referral and sessions with clients. As most of us do not have the experience of interning in an FSC/work with client, we are unfamiliar with how the flow of, e.g. an intake interview should be like. It is easy to spend hours reading up on how to interview, what to ask etc. Adding on to that, as many FSCs uses SSNet right now, we have to upload our BPSS assessment etc within a certain time limit. Some supervisors might also require interns to write daily reflection. Given the limited amount of time we have at work, prioritize your time well!!
Being someone who prefers structure, it is most important for me to have a rough session plan before meeting clients – to come up with questions, goals, familiarize myself with the administrative work (e.g. getting consent etc) as this helps me feel less anxious and more prepared (even though my session plans don’t always go as plan – for reasons you will understand once you start your placement).
Tip #3: REMEMBER YOUR SW2101 & SW2105
The helping profession is a work of ART and SCIENCE.
What differentiates social work from volunteers is that we are very much guided by theories. Do not throw away your theories because they are so important in helping you understand the client and to make better assessment and intervention. Some theories that I found helpful were the Ecological systems theory, Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, Erikson Psychosocial stages, Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, Iceberg theory and many more!! This is really dependent on the setting that you are going to, and the types of clients you work with. In my second placement where i worked with terminally ill patients, I had to also learn the Kubler Ross Stages of Grief, Dual process model and other empirical work that could be potentially helpful in my work with patients.
Like I mentioned at the start, I went into placement thinking that I just wanted an experience and I did not really bother to revise on my theories prior to placement. This was a big mistake because most of the supervisors expect students to come in with some foundations and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t name any theories other than the systems theory when my supervisor “tested” me.
Don’t forget your SW2105 skills – the different components of active listening (Reflection, Paraphrase, Summarize, Clarifying) as they are your tools to rapport building, assessment and interventions!
Tip #4: Be PREPARED, be PROACTIVE , be CURIOUS
The moment you start your placement, you are no longer a student, but a social worker in training. During the start of my first placement, I perceived myself to be a student and I kept telling myself that it is okay to make mistakes and to not know things. I hate to admit this, but I was rather “passive” (is this the right word?) as I am always waiting for my supervisor to give me work to do, to arrange supervision with me etc. When you change your lenses and you see yourself as a social worker in training, it helps you see yourself as being part of the organization, wanting to improve the lives of not just your clients, but also your colleague (this includes your supervisor!). You will be more PROACTIVE in seeking help, in arranging supervision session and in providing help. By understanding your role as a social worker in training and will be more motivated to be fair/considerate to your supervisor who already has a tight/packed schedule and be more inclined to plan and PREPARE the agendas for supervision (objective for meeting – can include, discussion about session plans, personal reflection, administrative).
One essential trait of a good social worker is also the sense of CURIOSITY. Ask questions! It is okay to not know, but it’s NOT OKAY to not have the desire to learn.
Tip #5: Make friends + attend your seminars!!
While placement lasts only 10 weeks, friendships that you forge during placement last forever. During the 10 weeks of placement, it can be an emotional roller coaster for many of us who haven’t work in the helping profession before. A lot of stress may occur because of the workload, differences in personal values and agency values, conflict with supervisors etc. One can also experience a lot of emotions, especially when working with clients that we feel strongly for or issues that we feel strongly about. Having friends help to buffer the stress and also having someone to talk to can help you clarify your thoughts and just talking can be a mean of catharsis!! The list of benefits of having a friend during placement is endless…!! All the seminars that I have attended thus far for my past 2 placements were also great resources. The seminar tutors provided a comfortable and safe space for personal reflection and it served as a way to help us maximize our learning during placement which was really valuable.
That’s all I have for this post. I intentionally kept this post general because there are so many different settings that one can end up in and I felt that this 5 main points are some things that are more generalizable and applicable to most people.
Hope this post helps and all the best to your placement!! 🙂