Field Practicum is the field education program designed to integrate classroom study with practice in a social work setting. Students spend time in an agency while being supervised by a field instructor. Through practicum, students translate knowledge from all areas of the curriculum into practical skills and competencies. The field practicum administrators try to find placements that will allow you to practice in your area of interest. They work to see that you have a positive and enriching practicum experience.
The School of Social Work conducts a practicum orientation prior to beginning a fall practicum. The orientation is designed to familiarize the student with the specific demands of the program and explain field practicum application and placement procedures. Placements are based on the program objectives and the learning needs of each student. Structured learning opportunities that enable students to integrate theoretical knowledge with practicum experience are built into the field program.
Students are given application information and materials at the practicum orientation. Once they have completed the application, they schedule an interview with the Director or Associate Director of Field Practicum. Following that interview, the Director or Associate Director of Field Practicum will arrange a preliminary match between a student and an agency for practicum. The student is usually expected to contact the agency field instructor or representative in a timely manner to arrange an interview with them. The agency will have been notified to expect the student's call. The student and agency representative will explore the appropriateness of the match. If both parties agree, the student is to notify the Director or Associate Director of Field Practicum of that agreement. If one party does not consent (for good cause), other options will be explored.
Students normally remain in the same agency for both semesters except in extraordinary circumstances. Requests for a change of agency or field instructor must be approved by the Director of Field Practicum and must be in the clear interest of the student and/or agency.
Criteria have been established as guidelines in selecting agencies for the placement of practicum students. These help to secure conditions which permit student learning and achievement of objectives. Students should not try to arrange their own practicum. The Director or Associate Director of Field Practicum has the final approval of an appropriate placement for students within the agencies.
There are situations in which students are able to complete their practicum requirements at their agency of employment. This must be approved by the Director of Field Practicum and agreed to by the employer. The hours designated for practicum in the agency must be spent doing tasks which are not part of the employee/student's regular duties (to provide for new knowledge). The student will be required to document practicum hours. In addition, the student's field instructor cannot be the same person as the student's employee supervisor.
BSW and MSW foundation students are required to complete at least 240 clock hours per semester (total 480 clock hours over two semesters). MSW advanced generalist students are required to complete a minimum of 350 clock hours per semester (700 hours over two semesters). These are to be considered the MINIMUM number of hours. There may be situations where it is determined more hours are necessary. The field instructor must see enough practicum hours completed by the end of the first semester to provide final evaluation for that semester.
As a general rule, clock hours are to be completed within the usual university semester schedule and should not be completed EARLIER than two weeks before semester ends without permission from the Director or Associate Director of Field Practicum. Ordinarily students are not permitted to accrue clock hours before the university semester begins. However, individual exceptions will be considered by the field administrators.
While the risk is relatively small, the student and the agency should recognize the possibility of a lawsuit in a case where a student is involved, even though the suit may not involve the student directly. The School of Social Work recommends malpractice insurance for all BSW and MSW students. Students may check with their insurance providers to determine whether a rider exists which would cover malpractice, or NASW provides such insurance for a nominal fee to its members. (WSU is unable to cover such costs for students.) More information on NASW malpractice insurance can be found at www.naswassurance.org.