A student’s first few days in the agency can set the tone for the whole year.  Students are often anxious about the placement.  Even the most experienced or self-confident student needs information about the agency and your expectations so that they can make a good start to the internship.  A formal orientation clears the way for the student to focus immediately on learning.

Key Strategies:

  • Plan before the student arrives.

    • Prepare the physical location where the student will be placed.  If possible, the student should have a desk, a phone, office supplies, etc.

    • Prepare the staff team for the addition of a student intern.  Communicate to staff the role and expectations for the student.  Students want to feel like a part of the agency and want to be treated like a professional.  It is important that other staff members understand the role of your student, which includes that the student is not in the agency to make copies, run errands.

    • If there is agency paperwork, (ex. fingerprinting, clearances, TB testing etc.)  that the student needs to complete, have this prepared to reduce potential delays.   If possible, have the student come in and complete the paperwork prior to the first day.

  • Conduct a tour of the agency including introductions to key staff members.

  • Schedule a series of brief meetings or presentations by key staff.  Possible presenters include personnel/HR, program directors and department heads. 

  • Develop an orientation packet that includes information such as:

    • Important agency and program policies and procedures

      • Parking information

      • Hours of work,  “overtime” and how to record hours

      • Times and dates of staff meetings

      • Policies regarding transportation of clients

      • Mileage reimbursement policies and procedures, if applicable

      • Chain of supervisory oversight and emergency contact information: please note, students need to know from the very first day how and who to contact when they have concerns or serious matters in question

    • Employee handbook

    • Readings addressing the practice of your agency/program and the client population

    • Any other information that you believe will help the student understand your agency/program.

    • An overview of agency programs with information about the various roles of social workers within the agency.

  • Note: your agency may have a new employee orientation checklist that includes additional components that could be helpful to the student.

The student also needs to know:

  • When and how to get in touch with a supervisor, i.e., what kinds of things can wait for supervision, and what should come to the supervisor immediately.

  • Times you are available for supervision.   We recommend you set your weekly supervision schedule as soon as possible and hold to it.

  • The agency dress code (official and unofficial)

  • Lunch times and agency norms around lunch times

  • The clientele the agency serves and the criteria for eligibility 

  • Confidentiality procedures

  • Safety issues and precautions

  • Jargon used by the agency

  • Where to find information for making referrals

  • Guidelines regarding assignments and deadlines

  • What else is unique about your setting?

  • How the student should identify themselves to clients and on written documents. Remember, the profession, through the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), has very clear ethical standards governing students and their supervisors failing to identify a practitioner as a student.  The NASW Code of Ethics provides ethical standards and violations can be brought to the NYS Office of Professional Discipline.  Also, social work programs and field placement agencies that do not ensure that students disclose their intern status are in violation of CSWE standards.  Clients and other professionals have a right to know the qualification of their service provider.  Clients have a right to decline services from an intern however, this rarely occurs.  

Most importantly, share with the student:

  • Your vision of the placement experience
  • Your vision for the supervisory relationship including roles and responsibilities for you and the student.
  • Your expectations of the student.

Content adapted from:  From Mission to Evaluation: a field instructor training program, CSWE Press,  2003

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