Tips for Keeping Up with Current Practice Trends and Research

Angela Anderson and Cayce Batts

New Social Worker and Seasoned Pro

Whether you are just beginning your social work career or have been in the profession for five years, 10 years or more, staying up-to-date on the latest evidence-based interventions is critical for success. As social work research and practice are always advancing, social workers must constantly seek information—and keeping current can require a lot of time and planning. NASW supports members’ efforts with professional development tools, networking opportunities, and access to research.

New social worker Angela Anderson, MSW, CSW, is a licensed social worker. She works to implement systemic change with the goal of decreasing family engagement with the child welfare system due to poverty and systemic prejudices. Cayce Batts, CSW, an elementary school social worker, is a little more seasoned. She has been in the field for six years. Anderson works in an urban area, Newport, Kentucky, while Batts works in the rural town of Fulton, Kentucky. Despite their differences, both know keeping current is important. They shared ways social workers can stay up-to-date with policies, research and evidence-based interventions throughout their careers, including ways NASW membership supports their efforts.

What It Means to Remain Current

“As a social worker, there are domains that we should remain current with to uphold our ethics and values,” said Anderson, who also teaches Trauma-Focused Care at the graduate level and is vice president of the NASW Kentucky Executive Board. “By remaining current with local, state and national policies, as well as cultural practices and evidence-based interventions, we can promote social justice, dignity and worth of the person with competence.”

Batts, who is working on her supervised licensure hours, a doctoral student and a member of the NASW Kentucky Chapter Board, said that the need to stay current exists on day one, but evolves as roles change.

“When I started in a non-clinical role, I didn’t need CEUs like I do now, but ethics holds us accountable and we have an obligation to stay up-to-date on what treatment modalities are proving successful,” she explained. “I want to know what’s working for other people, what clients are responding to and hear about new modalities I can try.”

She noted that the responsibility to constantly be aware of new research and interventions keeps social workers providing high quality services.

“I see needing CEUs to maintain licensure as an opportunity to engage in the field and strengthen my skill set,” she added.

Best Practices for Staying Current

Social workers use different strategies and resources to keep up to date in their practice specialties.

1. Explore Online Resources

There is a lot of support just a few keystrokes away.

Anderson studies local, state and national policies that are most relevant to her work by using legislative websites and social media groups that are social justice and social work–based. She also subscribes to NASW’s digital tools, which covers a broad array of news.

“Much of my information is gleaned from the NASW website, email alerts sent by NASW, and the Smart Brief that I receive from NASW,” she said.

2. Build Your Network

A good network of colleagues you can collaborate with is important for several reasons. It can make it easier to find out what training, continuing education, or events are beneficial and worth your time.

In addition, Batts points out that having good mentorship where you’re learning from an expert provides invaluable support.

“Look for a mentor with experience and a strong reputation who will offer guidance, reflection and critical thinking,” she advised.

Anderson stresses the importance of creating a network of people who are familiar with and influence the policies that you care about as well.

A challenge to building a network is that many social workers are the only ones in their office or even their regional areas. NASW’s online MyNASW forums can connect you with social workers around the country, making it possible to build a strong network. Plus, social workers can ask questions and get answers at any time, rather than having to wait for an in-person event.

“I was the first school social worker in my district, so I got resources, ideas and inspiration through other NASW members who had experience,” Batts shared. “For example, I got guidance on what a typical structure for school social work standards looks like.”

3. Attend Trainings and Events

In-person and virtual events help with both building a network and building a continuous knowledge base. NASW offers and promotes many training opportunities that help social workers stay current with evidence-based and cultural practices.

“There are few opportunities locally for me to connect with others and NASW has been the support to offer those opportunities and meet people across the state I wouldn’t have otherwise,” Batts said.

4. Attend Your State’s Social Work Lobby Day

Many of the policies and practices are explored and discussed with people who have knowledge and influence on a state’s social work lobby day.

“I think one of the best ways to stay current with policy and practice is to attend the annual Social Work Lobby Day at your state capitol,” Anderson said. “It’s a chance to find your seat at the table.”

Batts agreed, adding, “By helping to organize my state’s Lobby Day, I was able to plug into opportunities, get more active and represent my neck of the woods…I’m five hours from the state capital but my area still has representation.”

The Need to Stay Up-to-Date Never Ends

“Errors occur when we assume we are doing things the right way, or don’t need more training,” said Batts.

With the right support, social workers can confidently maintain their knowledge of the latest evidence-based practice trends and research. They can employ modalities that are working for other social workers around the country and ensure they are doing the best for their clients.

To learn more about how NASW supports social workers, visit our membership page. Consider becoming a member to take advantage of our member benefits and stay current in the field.

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