Simulations in the BSW Program

This year the BSW students had the chance to participate in hands-on learning experiences known as simulations. Their first simulation was a macro level experience that gave students the chance to look at some of the systemic issues surrounding poverty, while their second simulation was an individual micro experience where students practiced their engagement and assessment skills.

Economic (In)Equality Experiential Education: Instead of sitting in a classroom for one of their typical Saturday classes, our BSW students got a chance to sleep in a little (which they were all thrilled about!) and then joined 40 other nursing and public health students at the ATM for an experiential learning exercise. Each student was assigned to be a member of a family living at or below the poverty level. During the experience, the families had to navigate a variety of systems as they tried to make ends meet over the course of a month. CHS faculty and staff, as well as community, volunteered to take on the roles of the different community systems. The families had to maneuver through these systems to pay their bills, get the kids to school, go to work, eat, and live while facing various real-life challenges. Following the experiences they met in groups to discuss what it was like to try to make ends meet with limited resources. Talking with nursing and public health students, our BSW students explored how the experience relates to their current and future clients and what they can do to better help their clients and community.

The Micro Simulation: On yet another Saturday, the BSW students’ got a chance to practice their micro level skills one-on-one. In this instance the students engaged in a simulation with a trained actor who portrayed a client in a ‘real life’ situation. Each student met individually with the client/actor and practiced engaging and conducting a biopsychosocial assessment. The simulation was videotaped, so the students could watch themselves after and reflect on their skills.

While the students were fairly nervous going into the simulation (being videotaped is always a little nerve-wracking!), their feedback about the experience was overwhelmingly positive. One student said “It helped me work on my social work skills, for example, making eye contact and trying to ask open-ended questions.” Others discussed how helpful it was to interact with an actor instead of a peer in class, and many comment on how helpful the video was to deepen their self-awareness and reflection ability. Overall, they felt it was a helpful learning experience, and many said they would like more simulation experiences throughout the program. One student asked “can we do it more often?” – And the answer is YES. The BSW program plans to incorporate these simulations into the curriculum to help ensure our students are prepared to be effective social workers.