In my final year, I have had the opportunity to be placed in a brand new field placement. Not only is it new to the school, its new to the agency…they have never had a student, or employee for that matter, in this position.
I am at the Orange County Health Department providing integrated behavioral health services in the medical clinic. While they have had an LCSW in the building providing traditional, ongoing psychotherapy for their maternal health clients, this role is not integrated and is very much “collocated,” meaning they share the same facility but interprofessional interactions are essentially the same as working with an outside agency, but maybe a bit more convenient.
However, in adding my field placement, I am now collaborating regularly with patients, seeing them in their medical visits, and providing brief ongoing therapy for those identified as needing it. This last part is a significant element to this role because much of the patient population is uninsured or underinsured and because my services are free (kind of unethical to charge for student work), it is essentially the only treatment they can access, aside from medications.
This adventure has been an incredible learning experience but quite a challenge! Developing protocols, setting up documentation processes, teaching coworkers how to implement a new service, advocating for team-based integration, and in some ways, being my own boss has been intense but forced me to developed skills not always exercised in other, more stable and solidified placements.
Yeah, but what does this have to do with you?
My field experience is just one example of how incredibly invested the UNC School of Social Work is in your development, resume building, and experiential learning. First, they made sure I was equipped to jump into this placement, and due to my foundation field placement being in a similar but more established setting, I was! Second, they allowed me the opportunity to try something new that fit with my goals, when other options weren’t the best fit! Additionally, my classes have been beyond applicable and I have found myself hanging on every word just waiting to implement my learning in field in the coming days. I even take my text books to field so I can reference them easily (nerd alert!).
Lastly, when things have been a bit rocky, several faculty and staff have jumped in to provide both direct and indirect support through venting and brainstorming sessions, extra supervision, and access to experts in the field! My school has proven that they will consistently go the extra mile to provide an experience that is worthwhile and ensure that you succeed and I could not be more thankful!