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Laura Blackett | University of Sunderland

Social Work BA (Hons)

5 things I have learnt from my first year Social Work placement

Hello everyone,

My summer holidays have officially commenced because I have now completed 70 days on placement and had my portfolio verified which means I have passed, YAY! These are the gorgeous gifts my colleagues from placement gave to me on my last day..

 

I was really excited to move into second year and be given a placement opportunity. I always knew it would be a valuable learning experience but I never expected it to challenge and change me so much as an individual! I kept a reflective journal on a daily basis as part of placement and reading through that has highlighted the progress I have made with my learning. So here are 5 of the most stand out things I have learnt throughout my first placement:

1. Theory into practice: I’m the first to admit I don’t feel I am the most academically able student there ever was! The idea of being based in a classroom full time was one of the things that put me off applying for university in the first place. There are some modules I have completed which I have picked up easily however there have been others I have had to spend long hours studying independently just to feel like I was at the same level with all of my other classmates. For me placement has been key in helping me to understand pieces of legislation and theory and how they impact social work practice. I was able to observe how my placement organisation is shaped by relevant legislation, changes in government and social work theory and this has been something I have appreciated to help me to develop as a professional!

2. Self-Esteem & Confidence: Everyone is always gobsmacked when I confide in them about how little confidence I do actually have in myself, I think I am well practiced at putting on a good act! Placement has challenged me to use my own initiative, take full accountability for a caseload and believe in my own judgement as a person and a professional. I think it has done wonders for my confidence and by the end of placement I felt like I had made a positive impact on individual’s lives and that has boosted my self-esteem massively. It’s something I will definitely take forward into my final placement and one less barrier I feel like I am going to have to overcome.

3. No question is a silly question: Being a mature student I worked for over 5 years prior to deciding to come to university. I have always been in a job where, after the awkward initial few weeks, I have felt like I was in control and knew what I was doing and what was expected of me. Being a student on placement kind of throws all of that out of the window and you are often in a room with professionals with long intimidating job titles and more years experience than you have been alive! At the beginning of placement this was something I battled with because I felt embarrassed about asking questions which might sound like I was unsure and I worried about what others would think of me. I met so many helpful professionals on placement that this was something I soon learnt to overcome. A lot of the time the questions I asked challenged others to think differently or to reflect about why they were actually doing something. I always found people to be more than helpful when I had a question and from the feedback I got I think this showed I was taking in the full placement opportunity and willing to be inquisitive!

4. Communication is key: Social Workers are notoriously slated within the media for their failures to communicate clearly with everyone involved and in the past this has led to the deaths of children. All of the individuals and families I worked with on placement spoke positively about the communication skills I had. It was important to me to take on board all of the comments service users had made to me in the past within seminars about social workers. I worked hard to make sure people had a positive experience of me and the service. This included being punctual to all arranged appointments, actioning any points I had said I would, avoiding the use of professional jargon and abbreviations, and being open and honest with the service user. I worked with children, young people, families, adults with mental health problems, teenage parents and adults with physical disabilities whilst on placement and can safely say that all of the above helped me to build a strong professional relationship with each person and showed my respect for them, which I then received in return!

5. Organisation skills are crucial: Whilst on placement my colleagues would dash in and out of the office all day long going to appointments with service users, attending multi-professional meetings, completing training courses and running service user led groups and activities. I was amazed at how they managed to have such busy diaries and seemed to take it in their stride, not to mention keeping up with their case recording and paperwork. I quickly learnt how they done this because I was part of four different projects on placement and had a caseload belonging to a number of the projects which meant I had to keep on top of my diary and paperwork on a daily basis. If I hadn’t of done this it could have meant I missed home visits, was unprepared to share information at a multi-agency meeting or that I hadn’t recorded crucial information which would be referred to in a child protection case.

My advice to all of you about to take on your first year placement? Invest in a diary, be honest and clear with everyone you work with, believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to ask questions and enjoy it!

Lau x

 

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  • Name: Laura Blackett
  • Age: 22
  • Studying: Social Work BA (Hons)
  • Hometown: Hartlepool, UK
  • Ambitions: Become a fully qualified social worker, learn another language, have my own house by the time I'm 25, complete my bucket list by the time I leave University and also go travelling!
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