Letters to the Editor (November 2012)

Social work education needs medical courses

I agree with Jeane Anastas’ column Social Work Education Needs Boost, in which she stated that social work undergraduates had the lowest academic achievement. This low achievement contributes to the lack of respect social workers experience from other disciplines. As Anastas indicated in her article, social workers are intelligent and engage in creative problem-solving daily.

Many social workers find employment in hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, dialysis clinics, home health care, and elderly services where they are working with medical professionals — MDs and RNs. Eventually, these social workers will learn the medical terminology and equipment necessary to do their jobs and to communicate with the medical professionals. However, social work education could be enhanced by CSWE incorporating medical courses in the social work undergraduate and graduate programs.

Kathleen Barnett, LISW-S, ACSW
Cincinnati, Ohio

More articles needed on young social workers

As a longtime member of NASW, this is the first time I feel compelled to acknowledge, with joy, your article NASW’s youngest chapter leader working to increase memberships. Congratulations to Ohio Chapter's newly appointed ED, Danielle Smith!

An article that recognizes our younger/newer social workers is long overdue. Can NASW News run with this idea and create a permanent forum for this membership population? I challenge NASW News to take a more active stand and include, in every issue, a feature story about our younger/newly licensed social workers in the field.

While it is important to acknowledge the wisdom and expertise of social workers who have years invested in their profession, it is critical to highlight the fresh insights and ideas offered by our “younger fleet.”

It is my strong belief that featuring our young and bright members will help us retain them in the profession for the long term. Also, they have innovative perspectives that will help us all grow and take even better care of the populations we passionately serve each day.

Rita Abdallah, LISW-S, ACSW
Cleveland, Ohio

Admissions decisions part of achievement problem

After reading Dr. Anastas’ Social Work Education Needs Boost, I realized that she touched on many ideas that I have been mulling over the past several years. She stated “…it is always tempting to explain away research findings that make us uncomfortable”. I believe there are two primary reasons we as a discipline rank lowest among undergraduates on academic achievement. First, altruism (or the perception of) plays a role in student selection and secondly, the matter of finances and boosting numbers for programs.

As faculty, I’ve been a part of more discussions than I can count on this topic, on more than one campus. It can be difficult as a social work educator sitting on an admissions committee to turn away students who want very badly (for many reasons) to further their education and better themselves and society. So when the bar for achievement in the way of GPA or writing ability is set, you watch the criteria often slip on a “case by case” basis the longer you get multiple faculty (who also happen to be social workers) in the same room.

The strengths perspective can be a beautiful thing, but it definitely muddies the water in admissions decisions. On the other end, programs need the numbers (both in sitting bodies in the classroom as well as funds), so where there may have been a more objective administrator that would enforce admissions criteria in the past, economic challenges of institutions and pressure to “measure up” to other competing programs make for more of the same: opening up the floodgates to just about any potential student who applies.

With top tier schools offering online programs, the competition heats up another notch with local high-achieving students who may have gone to the school nearby opting for a higher ranking school in the nation. This gives the “bigger” programs first pick at not only all of the students willing to move to their location, but now also the students who need to stay local and can now attend their institution virtually. I’ve long been a supporter of programs (free or nearly free of charge) based in the community to prep students not academically ready for the rigor of university level writing and academics due to poverty of education, or length of time since their last course of study (among other life issues).

I believe that we fail most of our not-yet-ready students by trying to prop them up during the course of their bachelor or master level programs, (through writing tutors and the like) which often consume the time needed to hone their critical thinking and analytical skills. This leads to what no one intended in the first place: students failing out of a program and owing student loan money for a program that they were not academically ready for — or graduating students that will struggle professionally due to lack of writing and other professional communication and critical thinking skills.

Kristie Holmes, Ph.D., LCSW
Associate Professor, School of Social Work, Union University
Jackson, Tenn.