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Field Education Office Professional Development Series

05.08.2017

IPE cohortThe College of Social Work is set to celebrate its largest cohort of Interprofessional Education (IPE) Scholars this year. Thirty-nine BSW and MSW students benefitted from Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)/National Association of Social Workers (NASW) support and a variety of field placements including clinics, schools, and elder care facilities. They are now prepared to use their valuable skills in the world beyond USC.

Dr. Teri Browne co-chairs IPE in the health sciences at USC and is Primary Investigator (PI) on The Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (HEALS) grant and says that IPE training is a necessity for emerging social workers: “Social work traditionally has been practiced in interprofessional teams, and just recently our educational accreditation standards from the Council of Social Work Education have moved towards requiring interprofessional practice and education.” She notes that UofSC is one of only a handful of schools that include social work and public health in IPE initiatives in such a major way.

Browne notes that “HEALS is an exciting opportunity both for our BSW and MSW students” because it awards scholarships to two students from each program annually. “USC was one of ten schools of social work across the country who received this,” explains Browne, so not only is it a huge opportunity for students, but it is an honor for the CoSW as well. HEALS provides these four students with “specialized training on how to both work on IPE teams and also how to advocate for health parity,” says Browne, noting that the students had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. for national policy training on health social work and for legislative appointments with South Carolina’s elected officials. HEALS scholars also attended the annual James Clyburn lecture at UofSC and were even able to meet Rep. Clyburn.

Interprofessional Scholars Poster ShowcaseBobby Gamble is a graduating BSW HEALS scholar who interned at the Rice Estate of Lutheran Homes of South Carolina, a facility which serves older adults in hospice, rehabilitation, assisted living, and independent living. Gamble had the opportunity to see the perspectives of social workers, physical therapists, nurses, and doctors as they worked to care for older adults. As a social worker in this setting, one must “desire to build rapport with that client,” insists Gamble; “you see their strengths even when they’re in a desolate place.” Gamble would often visit clients in different settings to show what he calls his “compassion component,” stopping by for a chat in the client’s room or checking in during physical therapy.

TFTCohortsmallerThirty-five graduates participated in Training For Transitions (TFT), which places students at sites working with adolescents, young adults, and their families. “Additionally, the scholars must complete a yearlong integrative seminar focused on behavioral healthcare in interprofessional settings which is taught by Dr. Candice Morgan.” states Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, Director of Field Education in the CoSW, is the PI for TFT and also co-PI for Social Work HEALS. Dr. Reitmeier believes “the combination of didactic and experiential learning allows scholars to internalize this skillset and better prepare them for behavioral health work upon graduation.” Dr. Aidyn Iachini is co-PI on the TFT grant funded by HRSA and also serves on the IPE advisory council. IPE is important, she says, because “a lot of the issues that social workers help address are complex,” so it makes sense that more disciplines and professionals should be involved. “I tell my students that it will be very rare that they will be working in isolation with a client.” She explains that, more often than not, social work practitioners will be collaborating with many other professionals to address the complex needs of the clients they serve. “I think it’s important we train our students to work with these professionals prior to entering the workforce,” Iachini says.

Krystal MimsOne TFT scholar, Krystal Mims, learned how gaining different perspectives from various professionals paints a fuller picture of clients and allows social workers to “have a scope of who you can reach out to” for resources. Mims was placed at the Palmetto Health USC Medical Group, where she established a support group for teens with Type 1 Diabetes. At the pediatric endocrinology clinic, Mims worked with nurse practitioners, doctors, and office staff. She also reached out to clients to assess their needs and make any necessary referrals. For new Type 1 Diabetes patients, she needed to approach this process carefully, “since this experience would be so new to them.” She also reached out to the community coordinator of JDRF for guidance on starting a support group for teenagers with Type 1. By establishing this group, she hopes to “provide a foundation of support” from which teens can learn from each other about how to manage their diabetes.

Qui VuuQui Vuu’s TFT field placement was unique from her peers’ due to the setting: The John A. Martin Primary Health Care clinic in rural Winnsboro, SC. Collaborating with health care providers, nurses, and business office personnel allowed Vuu to “provide better integrated care for the clients.” Because the clinic is in a rural setting, “there’s a huge sense of community, and if the services or the funding is not there, then we try to fill those gaps as best we can.”

Vuu valued her experiences in the classroom, but applying her knowledge in the field “made it so much more meaningful,” calling her field experience “amazing.” Vuu explains that “being able to collaborate with other professionals, having other professionals respect my opinion—that was very empowering.”

Regarding these students’ futures, Browne hopes “that they can be better equipped to help communities, clients, patients, [and] family members with psycho-social barriers to health outcomes and mental health outcomes,” but “most importantly, I hope they’re able to go out and articulate to teams what the role of social work is” and perhaps even get “involved on a community and policy level to impact health.” Iachini hopes that students “come away with a better understanding of what some of the evidence-supported practices and interventions are for working with individuals who have unmet behavioral health needs.” Iachini reflects that these students have “had the opportunity to work with other interprofessionals through their field experiences,” resulting in a strong foundation and a valuable network that should serve them well in the future.

After graduating, Mims wants to achieve licensure and work in either a hospital or school setting, where “it will always stay interesting.” Gamble initially thought he wanted to work with youth or military families, but he is grateful for the opportunity provided by his IPE experience at Lutheran Homes and is now open to working with any population. “We’re all aging; we’re all approaching something,” he says, and at the end of the day, “we’re all people, and we all need somebody.”

As Vuu states, “the possibilities are endless with this degree,” and we are excited to see what our IPE graduates achieve next!

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