Excellence in Social Work Practice

By Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW

Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW

As social workers, we fulfill numerous roles. We provide high-quality services and psychosocial care, influence public policy, and conduct research. We also lead the delivery of health and human services and educate the next generation of social workers.  In our various positions, we constantly strive for excellence in social work practice to pursue the very best in client and community outcomes.

The excellent social worker possesses both expertise in problem solving and a breadth of knowledge and skills related to their specific area of practice. They promote and adhere to exemplary standards of practice, and demonstrate creativity in their approach to quality service delivery.  

Excellence in social work practice, at the individual practitioner level, demands dedication, compassion, commitment, continuous learning, and use of best practices informed by evidence. In the pursuit of excellence, social workers need collegial supports, constructive peer review and mentoring opportunities that encourage and guide them in their personal and professional growth.

Ensuring excellence in social work also requires strong organizational capacity to advance the profession, ongoing contributions to the social work knowledge base, enhancements to the image of social work, and social work participation in community affairs and legislation.

I often marvel at the foresight and sense of obligation that brought social workers together in 1955 to advance the profession through the creation of NASW. Those pioneering social workers believed that social work needed a strong professional association to foster social work excellence nationwide and optimize our collective capacity to improve people's lives and communities.

Today, NASW is proud to offer the comprehensive organizational support social workers need to achieve excellence throughout their careers. NASW, through its numerous services and programs, helps social workers deliver consistently excellent services and psychosocial care in today's complex health and human services environment.

Social workers of today and tomorrow will need to:

  • Understand the principles that underlie their practice 
  • Learn how to find, manage and use information 
  • Be comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty 
  • Serve as leaders and agents for change 
  • Think critically and communicate effectively 
  • Function effectively in the face of conflict 
  • Manage constant change, including technological developments

To meet these demands, NASW and its 55 Chapters offer a vast array of professional development tools that help social workers achieve more. These learning opportunities include live and virtual conferences, ethics training and legal consultation, research materials and publications, advanced credentials, specialty practice sections, leadership training programs, peer networking and advocacy events, career management resources, and CE courses of all types.

Social work professional growth is core to the NASW mission. And fostering a culture of excellence across the profession is something every social worker should strive for.

Contact Angelo McClain at naswceo@socialworkers.org.