Abstract: The Value of Reflective Practice in Field Education during the Covid 19 Pandemic (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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The Value of Reflective Practice in Field Education during the Covid 19 Pandemic

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Janice Davis, PhD, Director of Clinical Education, Howard University, Washington, DC
Background and Purpose: The CoVid 19 pandemic struck during the middle of the traditional spring semester and drastically changed the lives of everyone in its path. The mixed messaging by government, social media and broadcast media helped to create an environment of fear and uncertainty. During this time, social work students engaged in agency based field experiences were faced with multiple dilemmas – the need to leave campus because housing was being closed, agencies were closing, remote work and learning protocols were being instituted and concern for the health and welfare of self, family and clients, to name a few. The world they had known had now become uncertain, chaotic and confusing with an expectation that they would continue to perform their various roles proficiently. In preparation for beginning the “new normal” after spring break – which meant moving to a totally remote educational experience – they were assigned the task of writing a self reflection paper on CoVid 19, its impact on them personally and self care mechanisms they put in place. It’s important to know where you are when you are tasked with helping others.

Method: One hundred and sixteen (N=116) students were assigned a Reflective Practice paper to write the first week they returned to school after spring break. This transition week would be the first time all course work was online and agency based field education was remote. A prompt was developed for the assignment to assist the students with tuning into their own emotional status as the events of the pandemic emerged/developed. The specifically developed prompts guided the students through their introduction to CoVid 19 (a global perspective) to their intimate engagement (a personal perspective) as well as the value and importance of self care. The papers were read and coded thematically utilizing content analysis by two faculty members.

Findings: Analysis of the data revealed several themes: the initial lack of connection with CoVid 19 globally and nationally; fear/feelings of vulnerability; focus on faith and family; and self care/health. The data suggests that many of the students were initially not concerned that the pandemic would touch their lives. As that sense of safety was dispelled, they experienced the full impact on their personal and professional lives.

Conclusions and Implications: The findings highlight the importance of engaging students in reflective practice activities that enhance their awareness of their feelings and their needs. This is of increased importance for African American students who witness the structural inequalities that place them in vulnerable spaces. As social work educators we must always remind our students and ourselves of the importance of self care in managing work/life balance during stressful times. Social workers must understand that their health and welfare are equally as important as the health and welfare of their clients. We must ensure that we are engaged in routine versus crisis self care.