Professional Experience Unit

Student reflections

Student reflectionsMy placement at Westlakes Community Health Centre has been full of great opportunities. I would like to offer special thanks to Rowena (my supervisor) who has been very thoughtful of my learning and opened up so many opportunities. It has been a pleasure to be included as part of great team of social workers and the sharing of knowledge and experiences, especially with Amanda and Lesley whilst working at Newcastle. As part of working with individuals, the Greater Newcastle Cluster social work team at Community Health, ask their clients to complete a hand to share their counselling journey as part of an evaluation for the service they provide. I have completed a hand as a reflection of my journey during my placement.

- Beverly Brown, Toronto Polyclinic CARE Network

As the saying goes, expect the unexpected, so was my field placement with Hunter New England Mental Health. In my first week, I got to practice more than just social work skills when a client's dog went on an escapade out the front door. Chasing and catching the Jack Russell was quite an adventure, taking a good 20 minutes, however it was worth the effort to see the look of relief on the owner's face. As such, this was a great introduction to community mental health, where social workers are considered a "jack of all trades". 

Not only are social workers skilled at clinical casework, group facilitation, family work, housing and financial referrals, intake, crisis intervention, and community development… they are also called on to run in-services, chair and minute meetings, network in the community, problem solve, listen, liase, advocate… and make tea and coffee, whilst all the while maintaining their sanity and a good sense of humour!

I really admire my field educators who, on top of all of those things, ALSO took me on as a student! I've really enjoyed this field placement because I was given some pretty awesome opportunities to be involved in including case managing clients, facilitating groups, attending a forensic tribunal, as well as participating in professional development training and agency visits. There were many highlights, but there were a few sad moments too, for example, when a client passed away. However awful as this was, it was also an inevitable part of the job, which has been a journey of growth and understanding. 

Julie Velevski, James Magin and Evelyn WegnerI am so grateful to my two wonderful field educators, Cheree and Rachael, who made my experience complete through sharing of their knowledge, skills, experience and time throughout my placement. My confidence has increased through their continual encouragement and opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone and to try new things. All in all, this placement has been a huge period of professional and personal growth. I feel so privileged to have had this opportunity to be extended and to learn that people with a mental illness are human beings and as such, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect just like everyone else. Thanks for the wonderful experience and the great memories!

- Evelyn Wegner, HNEMHS Lake Macquarie Mental Health Team

In that exciting and anxious time of waiting to see what placement we end up with, it seems to be a common expectation that most people don't go for aged care placements. There is a general reluctance amongst us students to explore this area. For most of us it would seem, it's not the type of field we can imagine ourselves in once we graduate. And honestly, I was a little apprehensive myself when I realised this was mainly going to be an aged care placement. I was unsure of what I could offer, how well I would relate to clients. I have learned a lot about aged care in the last few months. I have learned a lot about myself. I have learned about hope. 

In conversations on this topic, I have heard people comment by saying that they would struggle with working in aged care because there's a lack of hope. What this placement confirmed for me is that while hope is sometimes difficult to find, it is just as real for people reaching the end of their lives as it is for anyone else. In many cases, there have been situations in which people have felt utterly helpless - especially when they realise they have to leave their home and go through the difficult transition into residential care. But sometimes in the middle of helplessness, the fertile ground of hope forms. Sometimes the best thing we can do as social workers is sit with someone in their helplessness and despair, to listen to their grief, to hear the stories that have shaped their lives. And part of this process is sharing the joys too.

- Laura Baird, Belmont Hospital