‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

A student explains how a bad experience on her final placement helped her to decide what kind of social worker she'd like to become

Credit: Stockdisk/Getty Images (posed by model)

By an anonymous student

I’ve almost completed my final placement in a statutory setting and I’ll be glad to finish. I’ve felt unsupported, especially in my reflective learning/practice and being able to discuss situations. I would’ve liked to have been made to consider why I felt like I did at times; to have been questioned. Instead I’ve always had to initiate questioning and peer supervision and, if it wasn’t the right moment, it never happened. I was expecting to learn through having my ideas and assumptions challenged, but I feel like I have not progressed much at all.

I’m open to constructive criticism, because I want to learn and see things from another perspective. I keep a reflective diary, but I believe you need another person’s view point to help you make sense of what is happening and the feelings you encounter. I used to take my reflective diary with me to supervision and told my supervisor that she could look through it, hoping for some feedback. However, instead I was told that, when I qualify, I won’t have time to be reflective.

As a student, I expected to be supported; not spoon fed, but helped to build on my knowledge, skills and personal development. But, even though I didn’t have this experience, I am more determined than ever to do the best I can to make a difference – and I will not be persuaded that critical reflection is not an important part of good social work.

I have decided to look at the positives I can take away from this placement. By reflecting on the experience, I have come to realise what sort of social worker I want to be when I qualify. I now recognise what I consider to be good practice. I believe that good practice does involve critical reflection, discussion, talking and being aware of your feelings and the impact they can have on yourself and those you will be working with. It is about understanding how people function – not just service users, but social workers as well.

I’m absolutely determined that I will get a job in the area of my choice. I have prepared questions to ask potential interviewers about the support they can offer newly qualified social workers and what supervision will entail.

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7 Responses to ‘I was told I wouldn’t have time for reflective practice when I qualified as a social worker’

  1. Mark Reed February 26, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    It is very sad to hear the experience of this student. However very good to hear she intends to fight in order to receive quality supervision.

    My experience of supervision has been varied but there are good managers out their prepared to make time for reflection and personal development. As teams become ever increasingly pressured it is even more crucial that we offer time for workers to reflect on, and develop their practice if we’re to improve the way we deliver services to those who make use of them.

  2. shohreh February 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Hi. When I started working in a directorate with a very poor reputation, I was advised that partnership working with service user and considering them as an expert on their situation was only an academic theory, but not a realilty in practice because ‘there are only a little money available to go around’. But then the same local authority built a new library and a website which cost the tax payers millions pound.

  3. Lorna Fitzpatrick February 26, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such a poor practice educator, who does not seem to understand the PE role in supporting learning

  4. Joe Godden February 27, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    Encouraging that this student has learnt the benefits of reflective practice and is applying them herself, disappointing that she was not supported and encouraged in her placement. I sincerly hope that when you are applying for jobs that your stance is taken seriously and that you find what you are looking for. Joe Godden (BASW)

  5. Ian Harris February 27, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    Your PE seems to be somewhat jaded and in need of something to help him/her recover their original vocation. Well done for not being drawn into a potentially lethal game of “ain’t it awful” you appear to have remarkable personal and professional resilience. All the best, and thank you for sharing your experiences and insight.

  6. Mark Reed February 27, 2014 at 11:57 am #

    This is really disappointing to hear. Practice educators have a duty to ensure that their students qualify with a positive outlook and that they become agents for change.

    It is vital, especially as services and social workers become ever more pressured, that workers have the opportunity to reflect on their practice. This experience is sadly not unique, however there are good supervisors in the field who fully understand the importance of providing quality supervision to their staff.

    I would hope that the College of Social Work and BASW will be able to play an ongoing role in lobbyign for all social workers to be receiving the quality of supervision they deserve.

    Unless this happens there can be no doubt that outcomes for children will be adversely affected.

  7. Anna March 3, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Reflective practice is absolutely essential when doing social work. Don’t ever feel you don’t have the time to do this. I think many workers in statutory services will recognise not feeling there is time however – whether this is driving back from visits or on the bus you must reflect on what you do. Reflection time is also an essential part of supervision, this way you learn and grow as a practitioner. Negative practice teachers and colleagues within the team will have their own issues – possibly burnt out, definitely over-stretched, so you must find your own positive resources from your colleagues, management structure or fellow professionals. One of the most supportive colleagues I ever had was a district nurse from the local surgery to which I was aligned, between us over a monthly meeting we would reflect on practice and what else could help each person we supported. We told each other about the good work we’d seen. It was essential to keeping us both going.
    Good luck with your career.