One thing that students and current working social workers are familiar with is the NASW, which has a huge influence over most of the standards set for social work practice and education. They also have some clearly defined standards for technology as outlined in the NASW’s Code of Ethics.
The standards cover a wide variety of topics, and I know that my education as a social worker did not address more than a minimum number of the standards. As discussed in an earlier article by Deona Hooper, Social Work and Technology: Fails in Teaching Students Technology, even though in 2005 it was directly laid out that we should by the NASW!
Lets take a look at what the NASW’s standards are and we can see how we measure up:
I will be scoring myself on a 1-5 scale you should too!
“Social workers providing services via the telephone or other electronic means shall act ethically, ensure professional competence, protect clients, and uphold the values of the profession.”
Technology adds an entirely new dimension to the ethical standards social worker’s have to abide by. Not only do you have to know what can and cannot be shared via communication on telephone and email. Technology has a way of blurring lines that are otherwise clear. If someone texts you something are you still mandated to report that or is that something you keep private? What about if you hear something in the background of a Skype conversation?
“Social workers shall protect client privacy when using technology in their practice and document all services,taking special safeguards to protect client information in the electronic record.”
Do you know about HIPAA regulations? Do know about the many ways client confidentiality can be compromised in electronic means? More importantly do you know what you might be held liable for? To compound the issue most social workers need to know about how to maintain client privacy when using nonstandard means of communication. This is particularly relevant when looking at the recent development of teletherapy (therapy via video conferencing). Worse, what happens if you store your clients information on a personal computer and it gets lost?
Let me know in the comments section if you have ever had questions about client confidentiality and privacy related to technology!
“Social workers shall have access to technology and appropriate support systems to ensure competent practice, and shall take action to ensure client access to technology.”
The NASW acknowledges that we work in organizations that often have obsolete software and equipment and they clearly state we should advocate for both ourselves and our clients when it comes to access to technology, something I agree with. Good job NASW! Do you have access to “appropriate technology”? Do you know what the technology you might need is? Let alone the technology that your clients might need. This is a gap in education for social workers that needs to addressed by schools across the country.
If you know of any schools that have classes that address technology and social work let me know in the comment below!
“Social workers shall be responsible for becoming proficient in the technological skills and tools required for competent and ethical practice and for seeking appropriate training and consultation to stay current with emerging technologies.”
This is where you can check where you measure up, do you know how to use the technology in your workplace? Does your workplace offer training in that technology so that you can better help your clients? What should social work programs offer in the way of technology?
Let me know in the comments below what you wish your social work program had taught you about using technology to help your clients!
Final Score: 14/20
Ouch 70%! It is pretty obvious that this is an issue that still needs to be address, for right now you can keep visiting Social Work Helper to educate yourself about technology until social work education gets its act together!
And don’t forget to let me know your final score in the comments below!