During the semester, the student informed the faculty field coordinator of a history of sexual and emotional abuse causing difficulty in school and ability to work with certain client populations.. The student was in therapy with a social worker and psychiatrist. The field coordinator contacted the field instructor to discuss the student's performance in the field. There did not seem to be apparent problems. The field coordinator did not disclose any specific details about the student and focused only on obtaining information about the student's performance. The student deteriorated after the mid-semester break. The field coordinator found that the student had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital and suspended the student from the field placement and contacted the field instructor. The confusion both educators about confidentiality had worsened this situation. Due to additional problems, the student's field placement was terminated. The student was told that returning to school would require documentation of emotional well-being and appropriateness for clinical work. The student chose to withdraw from the program. This example was extreme, but nevertheless highlighted the need for thorough and consistent protocol to guide field faculty in resolving these kinds of situations (Gillis and Lewis, 2004, p. 403).
In a follow-up session with field coordinators and instructors, it was found that 34% of field instructors had had students with psychiatric problems in their placement, ranging from depression and anxiety to unresolved trauma and victimization, which were addressed through referral for mental health services, medication, increased supervision, and placement termination. Thirteen percent reported interns had been terminated from placements for nonacademic reasons. Inappropriate contact with clients and unprofessional conduct were the most-often reasons for termination. Over half of the field instructors had supervised students with psychiatric problems and many believed students should be asked about their mental health history prior to program admission questioned whether students with prior psychiatric problems should be admitted or to continue in the program. They were also unaware of the ADA requirements, which prohibit asking potential students about their preexisting psychiatric problems (Gillis and Lewis 2004, p. 403).
Recommendations included fostering a relationship between the field instructor and faculty field advisor to facilitate more consistent communication and collaboration, promote shared responsibility, and reduce the field educators' frustration and anxiety.
In addition, instructors stated they needed better candidate screening; increased awareness of available resources to students to allow them to be proactive in dealing with potential problems; increased training; mandated counseling for social work interns and student disclosure of problems early in the placement; support from the program for problem resolution, with an intervention plan that clarifies their roles and identifies the procedures for recourse; and more information about the ADA requirement (Gillis and Lewis 2004, p. 404).
Gillis and Lewis (2004) stated that organizations require a clearly articulated plan for addressing student suitability and psychiatric disability, which can be used in all situations to provide a structure for problem resolution and includes: They also stressed the following points:
1. Social Work education programs need a clear understanding of the policies required for the protection of everyone involved, including a familiarity with the ADA and legal requirements that affect the university, students, and agencies and their clients with whom the students have working relationships. The contract between the program and the field agency should detail the agency's responsibilities for compliance with the ADA and consequences of discrimination based on disability.
2. Social Work education programs should designate a key person to craft such policies and orient other faculty, staff, agency field colleagues, and students on policies and requirements.
3. Since many programs may need further resources to fully implement adequate and appropriate services for students experiencing psychiatric disability, programs need to designate someone to advocate for these resources on their campuses.
4. The most important need could be for a key point person to oversee a given situation to the point of resolution. Careful process documentation is essential to assure follow through toward a successful resolution. With agency, faculty, and students, monitoring progress is critical.
5.Orientation for agencies, faculty, and students on policies related to psychiatric disability and what to do if a student is identified is extremely helpful.
According to Strom-Gottfriend (2000, p. 241), "social work education is rife with the potential for ethical conflicts. As faculty carry out their instructional, evaluative, and gatekeeping responsibilities, challenges can arise around fairness, clear expectations, confidentiality, faculty-student boundaries, and overlapping relationships." The field instructors may experience similar issue and carry the extra responsibility for students' behavior as practitioners and the myriad of concerns that can come up when supervising and evaluating client-worker interactions. In addition, as a work setting, schools of social work can be the location of ethics challenges in regard to the competence of faculty members, impairment, and fair supervisory and employment practices.
When ethical standards are breached, the involved and disgruntled individuals have a number of different resources for redress, including institutional grievance processes, licensing or regulatory boards, litigation, and peer-reviewed adjudication by which professional bodies such as the National Association of Social Workers. Research to date has looked at the prevalence of ethics violations (Berliner, 1989; McCann & Cutler, 1979; "Study cites," 1995) as well as malpractice violations (Reamer, 1995), but has not reviewed the data as they apply to the situation that occurs in terms of social work schools.
Strom-Gottfried (2000) says that social work ethics interconnect with the gatekeeping responsibilities in two major ways. First, social work programs are recommended to think about broader issues than academic fitness in their decision to admit, place, or graduate students as is noted above. Second, ethics impacts the process by which gatekeeping is enacted. In other words, ethical gatekeeping means the application of fair, nondiscriminatory, legitimate, publicized standards in keeping with due process procedures. Literature on screening, evaluating, and terminating students provides an essential resource for identifying and acting on troubling behaviors. Just as important, it also directs faculty and administrators in the steps and considerations involved in carrying out this function in an ethically and legally defensible manner. Even beyond gatekeeping it is clear that a wealth of knowledge exists on the steps to take in ethically delivering social work education. The problem may be that guidance that may prevent difficulties is not looked for until problematic situations arise. By then, the wisdom may be too late.
Gaubatz and Vera (2002) investigated whether formalized gatekeeping procedures and program-level characteristics actually nfluence the rates at which deficient trainees are graduate from counseling programs. One hundred eighteen faculty members reported that counselor educators face a variety of pressures to avoid investigating potentially deficient students, including concerns about being sued and receiving compromised teaching evaluations. However, faculty members in programs accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs and faculty members in programs with more formalized gatekeeping procedures appeared to more effectively follow through with concerns they have regarding specific students. These findings support the implementation of both broad, program-wide training standards and specific, formalized procedures to more effectively screen deficient trainees.
The role of the social worker is only becoming more difficult as society becomes more complex, the needs become larger and the demographics change with the aging population. This will put added emphasis on schools to enroll and maintain students who are the best possible for the social work field. The results of demographic and societal changes are already being felt by social work and will cause even more of a challenge in coming years. For example, the increase in the elderly population will necessitate more time on assessment and care management to allow people to stay home at an older age. Likewise, growing issues of substance abuse will further increase demand with all areas of social work.
The decrease in the proportion of adults of working age will enlarge recruitment problems. As a consequence of resource barriers, social workers will have even a larger role as gatekeepers to services and choice for users will be restricted. They will need to make more use of their talents in working with people to enable them to utilize their own resources and locate their own answers to problems as services become more focused in addition, social workers will have to acquire more skills at time management and priorities and be able to clearly delineate their responsibilities in each case and say "no" when necessary. Demand and recruitment concerns may mean more inexperienced staff coping with complex areas of work, responsibilities going unallocated, longer waiting lists and a growth in problems of low morale, stress and absenteeism.
In order to meet these challenges, it is hoped that society continues to care and protect vulnerable people and the disadvantaged or socially excluded people and groups, and that social workers will be valued, reinforced and rewarded for their accomplishments with these individuals and groups. Social work needs to be carried out by an effectively trained and…