Sunday, August 17, 2014

Termination station

I've been reflecting a great deal on the importance of my role as a gate keeper for our future colleagues.

While I've only worked with a handful of students so far, I've definitely learned quickly that there are warning signs that our field is not for everyone.

The latest student I've been given, I was told by the school initially that they were young, new to the field and pretty needy which lead to some problems in their first placement with a challenging, complex population, and limited supervisor availability. The school thought a different population and on-site field instructor would help.  Clearly though, it goes way beyond that.

They were okay week #1, and explained lots of issues with the staff and peers in their first placement.  I gave them the benefit of the doubt because I have been in troubling environments like that AS a social worker.

However, by week #2 some serious issues began to show up.

The student began having problems interacting with the patients....their tone was quite punitive in nature.  They had a hard time with assisting in even most basic tasks, became overwhelmed and would leave the practice area in a temper-tantrum.  Soon, they had trouble interacting with other team members and the point I received complaints that they were "rude" and again reacted by leaving the room if not allowed full control over a session (an area they struggled with to begin with so thus, needed the assistance).

I brought all these things up in supervision, where the student disclosed some issues I had already picked up on that require the help of many different helping professionals. They promised they would seek help....even asked for referrals. 

They continued however to show limited insight about their ability to work independently as a social worker......

I gave them many concrete examples of what a cruel, harsh world it is for us, even with a great deal of support. While they SAID they understood that, their ability to follow through on simple tasks, and improve on areas discussed proved otherwise.

A conversation was had at this point with the school and it was then divulged that these were the same struggles previously reported.

I understand that the school had to give the student another opportunity but it still puts me in an awkward position.

There was more of the same while I was out on vacation this week, to the point that the student was asked to leave the agency.

I now have to meet with them to address this, as well as write an evaluation that I, a person who utilizes the strengths-based model daily, is challenged in finding even one good thing to write about their ability to work in the field.

This is upsetting, because I would love to see everyone succeed.  Our field requires it.  We NEED more social workers....BUT.......there are too many people who are passed along who don't deserve, nor have any ability to work with people in need.  Our field is already filled with many of's also not fair to set a person up this way either....make them continue to spend money on schooling and then put them in a position where either they are never going to find work, or be fired from work.

Being a field instructor is hard......but like becoming a social worker, I have no regrets.

I'm still looking forward to my next batch of students starting in September :).

I have learned with every single student I've had and know I will continue to improve myself both as a field instructor and a social worker along the way. 


  1. If it makes you feel any better I wish my field supervisor during student teaching would have been honest with me and told me classroom teaching wasn't my gig up front rather than having to find that out myself, the the hard way in the coming years. :) She liked to see the good in everyone too. If you don't do it now, this student will continue to struggle professionally. It may sting for a bit, but it's best to just rip the band-aid off in one go. :)

    1. I don't know why my comments aren't showing but I have no regrets for that reason. From what I was told they told the school they had no idea why they were let go. That's some serious lack of awareness.

  2. WOW! Some people are just clueless, and we don't need them in human services!

  3. Hi I am a non traditional student (older) in the process of getting my BSW and going on to MSW. My first internship was hard not because of the clients but the staff. More than two people told me I was crazy for going into Social work and they hated their jobs. I got a great evaluation and was told I had a good attitude . I hope my next experience will be more positive and I meet people who like what they do

  4. Thanks for responding again ladies. It's pretty common to be more stressed out by those employees you work with vs. the actual clients themselves. I could probably write a book about what I have run into over the years with co-workers and I still have PTSD from some of the wackadoo women at my last job. I actually am all for non-traditional students. They tend to have a lot more life experience then younger students and know how to deal with people well. Both of h incoming students also already work in the field so I'm not as worried this time around.