Why CEUS are necessary for Social Workers

Humanity, as being the quality or state of being humane marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans, is the essential motivation for social workers.  They desire, above all else, to improve the lives of those who suffer.  Those who work in the field of social work, treat such things like behavioral and learning disorders, depression, psychotherapy, and eating disorders.  These professionals should be licensed and in order to officially work in hospitals and clinics as certified social workers, they must be.

However, once a social worker is finished with their education and has begun their practice, there are always new trends, treatments, and disorders to understand.  As the field of social work broadens and expands, so does the growing pool of knowledge surrounding it.  To stay effective and useful as a social worker, one is often required for licensure to engage in continuing educations.  These social work continuing education units, or CEU’s, are mandated by the different listening boards for each discipline to help keep those who work in the field of human services sharp and abreast of current trends. 

In the field of medicine, the reality of change, development, and discovery is more prevalent than ever.  One study estimates that the half-life of knowledge acquired in medical school is approximately five years.  (source: 1 Lindsay, Morrison, & Kelley, Professional Obsolescence Implications for Continuing Professional Education, 25 ADULT EDUCATION 3 (1974).) 
That is, in just five short years, half of what a doctor learns in medical school becomes obsolete.  This is no different when dealing with the field of social work.  As times and challenges change, the applications of treatment help change too.

CEU’s are required to be taken by social workers who have already completed the formal education required to enter their field.  Ongoing training is so vital that many professional associations, including the National Association of Social Workers, encourage their members to keep up with the current knowledge base by participating in specified additional training within certain time limits.  State-licensing boards for social workers may require social workers to obtain a specific number of hours by successfully completing qualified academic or professional courses.

A Day in the Life of a Typical LCSW Social Worker*

Hello, my name is Linda Watson, and I am a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).  Many people ask me why I decided to go into the field of social work.  My answer is always the same: I wanted to help people who could not help themselves.  Short of starting my own foundation for people that can’t help themselves, I decided that I could personally reach out to many with an education.  Often those in my field are told that our chosen profession is not really a profession at all, and that we are only behavioral scientists researching reasons behind why people act the way they do.

I beg to differ.  In my career I have seen people go from such sever depression that strong narcotics were necessary to leading normal lives with their families and jobs.  I have seen teenage girls, with such poor body images; go from thinking that starving themselves is a good idea, to being able to be mothers and successful career woman.  People do not need a medical symptom to have a deep need.  My profession, and I do mean profession?, addresses that need.

6:00 a.m. I wake up early this morning because I have to prepare for a clinic meeting with colleagues and assistants.  I eat toast and juice while reading the latest issue of NASW Press‘s Social Work quarterly. In the Journal is an article about how the clinical diagnosis that we place on our patients may exacerbate the stigma of mental illness in general.  This is the discussion I intend to bring up in our meeting this morning.

7:15 a.m. I hate traffic.  It seems that I should have left a little earlier. However while I am in my car waiting for people to find the gas pedal, I call the mother of a patient who is struggling with anorexia.  I am making this special call to confirm our appointment for today and ask her if she wouldn’t mind waiting outside this time.  I tell her that it is a fine idea to have family members involved in counseling; however, today I think I need to talk to her daughter alone.  I might help me get to the bottom of why this girl thinks of herself the way she does.

8:02 a.m.  Arrive at work safely thank goodness.  Two unexpected patients are in the waiting room.  One is waiting for one of my colleagues and one is waiting for me.  He is not scheduled but looks as though he is having a minor panic attack and has been battling depression for 10 years.  I make sure he can wait for about 30 minutes, just enough time for the office meeting, and then I will see him.  Thankfully, he is ok with this. I ask Donna, our receptionist and scheduler to bump all my patients down 15 minutes and call those that she can.  Ouch, today is going to move quickly.

8:10 a.m.  Office meeting: First item of business is the break room refrigerator.  It doesn’t work and we need to buy a new one.  My partners and I consent and set our office manager to the task.  Then the patient load of one the partner’s is being called into questions.  He has neglected to get this years CEU contact hours completed and now his license is going to lapse.  He is also not shouldering the patient load like he should and we encourage him to get it done (or else!  I didn’t say this, just thought it of course).

8:45 a.m.  Met with my depression patient. Revisited the breathing and visualization exercises we discussed last week, and discussed recognition of panic attacks and when to do when he feels one coming on.  He wants to come back for his regularly scheduled appointment this week.  So I send him out to Donna to make sure it is in the computer.

9:30 a.m.  Meet with recovering meth addict.  She is doing much better and I remember a new treatment model for dealing with relapses that I learned at the CEU class I took last week.  It was new idea on how to help those addicted to drugs at one point or another avoid the environmental cues that might trigger a damaging episode.  We have a productive conversation and she looks great.  She is gaining weight and even tells me that she has an appointment with a cosmetic dentist to fix her ravaged teeth.  This is a paycheck moment for me, because I love to see people improve.

10:45 a.m. I take a quick break in my office and check my email.  I saw the funniest video my brother sent me of people doing stupid things.  I wonder what LCSW is seeing them.  I remember that I need one more contact hour for the following year’s license.  I look on the internet and find a 1 hour class entitled, “Fezzik from the Princess Bride: A Study in Psychosocial Development. It looks like a riot.  I sign up and find a copy of the movie online as well.  This ought to be fun.

11:30 a.m.  My anorexia patient arrives and I see her alone with her mother.  She tells me things that she would not with her mother in the room.  We discuss how these have affected her personal image.  I hold her accountable for her diet list of last week.  She seems to be responding but I don’t know if I have gotten to the bottom of her issue.

12:15 p.m.  I am meeting a Student from the University for lunch.  He is interested in social work and wants to discuss behavioral science in general with me and more specifically he tells me of a book he is reading about bipolar disorder in children.  I have read the same book and we have a good and productive session together.  He asks me how much time I spend in continuing education.  I tell him that not a week goes by that I don’t either learn, or use something I have learned since I finished my formal training.  Continuing education is a necessary reality for the LCSW. 

1:30 p.m.  I return to the clinic to prepare for geriatric nursing facility visit.  The resident physician and I are going to visit a woman who has been having troubles.  The nursing staff informed us that they suspect that she suffers from dementia and geriatric onset depression. 

2:00 p.m. We visit the nursing home patient and find that she is in need of some simple solutions.  She has not been outside in 3 weeks and has only a small sealed window in her room.  I discuss the needs of this patient with the staff and they agree that a more active outdoors schedule is called for.  The sunshine will be good for her and her depression.  The staff and I discuss other options.

3:20 p.m. Arrive back at the clinic and meet with a father and his two teenage daughters.  They have recently lost their mother to cancer and we discuss the bereavement process.  The father is doing very well, but I fear for the younger girl.  She is withdrawn and quiet.  I ask them if thy will excuse me for a moment and I step outside.  One of my partners is in the hallway reviewing a chart.  I quickly ask him his opinion and he remembers the exact continuing ed class he took two years ago about bereavement and end of life issues.  He cites one of the articles discussed, which revolved around effects of loss of loved one on teenaged children.  Grateful for good partners I thanked him and finished my discussion with the family. 

4:30 p.m.  I prepare for a conference on eating disorders coming up next week.  I have been asked to teach a continuing education class on that topic and I prepare my lecture.  This should be fun. 

6:10 p.m.  I pick up my patient load from Donna on the way out.  Tomorrow will be as full as the today.  I listen to Jazz music on the way home to give myself some therapy.

* This person is fictional but the information is based on several LCSW's input.

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