Duross, Jennifer - Social Worker

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[edit] Job Title (Jennifer DuRoss)

Social Worker

[edit] General Overview

Social workers are concerned with the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of individuals. They provide support to those struggling with personal, family or career related issues caused by personal and social issues. Social workers work with clients to develop coping and problem solving skills, as well as find community resources to utilize, and provide counselling/therapy[1]. Social workers can work in a variety of different settings, including: hospitals, school boards, private practices, correctional facilities, family service centres and more.

[edit] Job Duties and Responsibilities

The job duties of a social worker vary depending on their workplace setting, but general responsibilities largely remain the same. The majority of social work occurs in health and community settings[2]. Responsibilities of social workers in these settings include working one-on-one or as a part of a team to[3]:

  • Adhere to the Canadian Association of Social Workers’ (CASW) Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Ethical Practices
  • Assess individuals
  • Have a comprehensive knowledge of psychotherapy and counselling techniques
  • Help clients adapt to changing circumstances in their lives (e.g. death of a loved one, divorce, relational problems, unemployment, mental health challenges), and providing crisis intervention, if necessary
  • Help clients and families understand the current and future implications of their struggle and recommend a course of action
  • Navigate social services, explain and recommend options to a client (e.g. applying for government funding for a client with disabilities, or contacting rehabilitation or detox centres on behalf of a client)
  • Advocate on behalf of a client in various situations
  • Work with supervisors and/or colleagues to develop and review social service policies and programs

[edit] Typical Workday

A typical day may look different in various settings that social workers are employed. The following is a typical workday of a social worker, named Christine, in a health care setting[4]: As the day begins, Christine arrives to work at 7:30am and listens to voicemails left from the following evening. She makes notes on those that the messages pertained to, and calls her unit’s charge nurse for further updates on any after-hour issues. A team conference is held during the week (for Christine, it’s Tuesdays and Thursdays), during which her team briefly reviews each patient in their unit for updates on their medical and functional status. Following the meeting, Christine spends mid-morning placing calls to patients’ families, organizing meetings and communicating with community partners (e.g., Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Community Care Access Centre), and preparing for afternoon meetings. Following lunch, Christine has meetings with patients and families, or attends any hospital committee meetings scheduled for that day. For the remainder of her day, Christine updates patient’s charts and checks in on patients being discharged the following day.

Other daily activities include conducting assessments, providing supportive counselling to patients or families (often addressing coping with illness, circumstances or grieving), as well as discussing the best course of action for patients with other members of her team (e.g., charge nurse, senior social worker, physiotherapist and occupational therapists). She’s also responsible for maintaining hospital and provincial statistics, and attending social work and finance meetings for the hospital. At 3:30pm, Christine finishes her work and leaves for the day. Due to patient confidentiality issues, patient information must remain in the hospital, so there is rarely work to be done outside of office hours.

[edit] Educational Requirements

The minimum educational requirement to become a social worker in all provinces is a Bachelor’s degree (with the exception of Alberta, which only requires a diploma)[5]. In Ontario, membership with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) is required for any individual that identifies as a “social/social services worker” and/or “registered social/social services worker”. The College maintains a standard of quality and education for social workers in Ontario, and is accountable to the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.

Many universities in Canada offer a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW), which gives students a thorough understanding of the field and adequately prepares them to complete a Masters of Social Work (MSW). For non-BSW students, achieving a MSW degree requires a two year master's degree, rather than the one year MSW that BSW students may complete. The following is a list of accredited Ontario universities that offer BSW and/or MSW programs, provided by OCSWSSW[6]:

In addition to a practicum that many BSW and MSW require from their students, volunteerism in related fields can be very helpful to your career. Many job postings require relevant job experience, but without your degree, it can be difficult to work for pay in this area. Volunteering will enhance your resume, your understanding of social work, and will allow you to experience various aspects of the job.

[edit] Related Skills, Interests and Abilities

Those interested in a career as a social worker will likely have an interest in social issues that affect individuals in society. They will likely have an aptitude for active listening, empathy, organization and persuasion. They will also have to practice patience in their work and in dealing with clients. These skills come naturally to many people, and would be essential for success as a social worker. A social worker should also be able to reflect on their own mental health; social work can be a stressful profession, and requires the ability to relax and ensure that you’re not negatively affected by the stress of the job.

[edit] Relevance of Psychology Undergraduate Degree

Although the requirement for a BSW is increasing in Ontario, there are still MSW programs that will accept students with a BA in a related field, such as psychology. In the undergraduate psychology program at Brock, students will have the opportunity to take several courses that address issues social workers may come across. Courses on abnormal psychology, psychopathology in children, counselling and psychotherapy, social policy, social work theories of practice or the psychology of social justice may be helpful. Each of these classes address issues and topics that social workers commonly work with. Learning about psychopathology and dysfunctional behaviour, and the treatment and prevention of such behaviour will assist in a social worker’s assessment of an individual. Other courses address issues specifically affecting children and their development, with an emphasis on how child psychopathology differs from the same disorders in adults. Beyond that, counselling and prevention will give a social worker an extensive understanding of implementing effective treatment interventions.

[edit] Salary Potential

The salary for social workers varies depending on job location, years of experience and education. In Canada, the median base salary for a social worker with a BSW is $52 836[7], while the median base salary for a social worker with a MSW is $61 714[8]. In addition to the base salary, many social worker jobs have benefit packages, including dental, vision and health insurance. However, it is important to note that social workers employed at a private practice don’t necessarily have added benefits, and their income is often dependent on the number of clients and hourly rates.

[edit] Job Outlook

Service Canada reports that there has been a drastic increase in social worker employment of the past few years, and expects this trend, particularly in western regions of Canada (i.e., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia)[9]. There is an increase in need for social services, and subsequently, an increase in the demand for social workers and social service workers. This may be a result various factors, including: the impact of traumatic events (e.g., 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina), the reduction of stigma surrounding mental health and accessing services, or the aging population that requires assistance securing long-term care. Employment opportunities are expected in health care settings, school boards, social service agencies, non-profit organizations and private practices.

[edit] To Know More

To learn more about a career in social work in Canada, visit: Canadian Association of Social Workers. For Ontario-specific information, visit: Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Services Workers or Ontario Association of Social Workers.

[edit] Notes and References

  1. About Social Workers: Overview. (2011). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.oasw.org/public/about-social-workers/overview.aspx
  2. Bouw, B. (2014, April 2). I want to be a social worker. What will my salary be? Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/i-want-to-be-a-social-worker-what-will-my-salary-be/article17782489/
  3. Fanning, J. (2015). Understanding the Role of a Social Worker. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://mswonlineprograms.org/job-duties-and-responsibilities-of-social-workers/
  4. C. DesRoches, personal communication, February 10, 2015.
  5. About Social Workers: Overview. (2011). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.oasw.org/public/about-social-workers/overview.aspx.
  6. Social Work & Social Service Work Programs in Ontario | OCSWSSW. (2014). Retrieved February 8, 2015 from http://www.ocswssw.org/registration-section/social-work-social-service-work-programs-in-ontario/
  7. Bachelors of Social Work: Salary. (2015). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/Social-Worker-BSW-Salary-Details-Ontario-CA.aspx?&hdcbxbonuse=off&isshowpiechart=false&isshowjobchart=false&isshowsalarydetailcharts=true&isshownextsteps=true&isshowcompanyfct=true&isshowaboutyou=true
  8. Masters of Social Work: Salary. (2015). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://swz.salary.com/salarywizard/Social-Worker-MSW-Salary-Details-Ontario-CA.aspx?hdcbxbonuse=off&isshowpiechart=true&isshowjobchart=false&isshowsalarydetailcharts=false&isshownextsteps=false&isshowcompanyfct=false&isshowaboutyou=false
  9. Social Workers. (2013). Retrieved February 8, 2015, from http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/qc/job_futures/statistics/4152.shtml
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