In my previous post, my placement experience-part 1 (go and read it if you haven’t already) I discussed my experience of my practice educator. In this post I will focus more on the positives and learning from my placement.
Being in my final placement of a 3 year social work degree, it is by virtual longer. 6 months long to be exact. Placements are intended to give you an idea of what it means to be a qualified social worker and the extent of work you would be involved in. They equip future social workers with the practice knowledge and skills necessary for them to effectively do their role. Skills such as how to communicate with service users, how to understand what a service user needs and how to identify services that would help meet those needs. Whether the placements do so is an entirely different matter and quite personalised to each individual.
My learning from final placement; This placement taught me five valuable lessons.
Lesson 1- I found that working in the community with service users taught me a valuable lesson in ascertaining the service user’s needs and how these are delivered to people. The placement also raised my awareness of the various services available for families within a certain area.
Lesson 2-Always keep yourself busy. Whether this means working on your cases or doing some reading. I found that as a fast worker, I would have moments where I had nothing to do. Honestly, this was not very often. However, in those moments, it helped to read up on different resources that would enhance my practice. Use the spare time to familiarise yourself with social work theories because they will most definitely come in handy.
Lesson 3- Ask questions. If you do not understand something, ask! You are at placement to learn, don’t feel ashamed to ask and ask again if things are still not clear. It might seem as though you are bothering people, but how else are you going to learn. It does not necessarily have to be your practice educator, you can ask anyone questions. At placement, I mostly asked questions when I was really stuck for an answer. My practice educator found it puzzling that I really asked questions, but I preferred to find out the answers for myself.
Lesson 4- Joining a team as the new member (whether a student social worker or a qualified social worker) means that other people might have their own jargon and acronyms for describing things, ask for clarification or an explanation if you are unsure about anything. Do not assume that things mean what they mean! Never assume. If you are unsure, ask. You can’t go wrong by asking.
Lesson 5- Never forget to take a break. As a social work student, I was very fixated on completing my tasks before the end of the day/week. I sometimes found myself working through lunch and not leaving my work desk or taking a 10 min break instead of an hour. A fellow colleague discouraged this behaviour. You need the break to yourself, to reflect or disengage with your work, so you have a clear mind when you return to it. I used this approach towards the last months of my placement and it helped me in my practice.
Lastly, the best thing about placement for me was the people! Everyone at my placement regardless of what team they were in were so friendly, and made my placement experience much more enjoyable. I looked forward to returning to placement every week, and was very sad when it came to an end. But it was a worthwhile learning experience and by the end of the placement, I was confident in my abilities, knowledge and skills as a social worker.