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Field Education

Frequently Asked Questions about Field Placements

Frequently Asked Questions about Field Placements

I have just been admitted to the program and I want to know about placements.

You can access information about field placements on the Community Connection website. There will be information/orientation sessions about the placement process during winter semester. Watch your email and the school’s website for notices in the School to learn about these sessions.

I didn’t sign up for my placement and seminar, what do I do?

Notify Tammy Maikawa, millet@mcmaster.ca with a copy to Janice Chaplin, the Faculty Field Coordinator, chaplin@mcmaster.ca . If there is still room available in a seminar, you will be directed to complete a form and submit it to the social work office.

Can I find my own placement?

No. If you have an idea about a specific placement, send it by email to Janice Chaplin, the Faculty Field Coordinator, chaplin@mcmaster.ca. Please be sure to include your name and contact information, why you want this placement, and what class you will be in (third or fourth level, block or concurrent). Placements must meet the criteria established by the school. See the Field Manual for information about field placement requirements. Placements must be within the greater Hamilton area (Hamilton, Brant, Niagara, Halton, Haldimand-Norfolk, Toronto).

Why can’t I find my own placement?

We have ongoing relationships with placement settings. These settings and the field instructors have been approved by the school and meet university and national standards for field instruction. Since we have approximately 140 students entering field placements in one year and it can be overwhelming to the agencies to try to respond to unplanned requests for placements. Additionally, it is not fair to students who follow the school’s procedures.

Do you offer out of town placements?

Normally, we limit the geographic area to a 45 minute drive from McMaster (See Field Manual, Policy for Out of Town Placements). We do this because the placement must be within an easy commute for your seminar leader. The seminar leader acts as liaison to the placement and must be available for evaluation conferences and to problem solve any placement difficulties. Additionally, because the integration seminar is an essential part of your education and you must take the placement and seminar classes together, you need to be near Hamilton to attend the seminar. We do, however, have some placements in Brantford, Oakville, Toronto, Niagara Peninsula, and Haldimand-Norfolk.

If a placement is approved by the school, can I explore the possibility of a placement without going through the school’s planning and selection process?
No. The process is in place to coordinate requests so that agencies are not overwhelmed with student contacts and to ensure that all students have access to placements. The process also exists to help match student learning needs to appropriate placements.

DO NOT CONTACT A PLACEMENT UNTIL YOU HAVE SUBMITTED A FORM AND HAVE REVIEWED THE PROCESS WITH THE FACULTY FIELD COORDINATOR.

Are there enough placements for all the students?

Yes.

I want a particular placement but it is not listed as available for my 3DD6 or 4DD6 class. Why not?

Some agencies offer only Block or only concurrent placements. Similarly, some agencies offer only third level or only fourth level placements.

There are many reasons a placement is not offered in a particular year or for a particular seminar. These reasons include:

the agency is not offering a placement because of internal reasons e.g. no field instructor available, no space available for students; the agency is going through restructuring, unstable funding etc.
the placement is only offered at a specific time. Sometimes agencies are only able to accommodate students at a particular time of year e.g. summer or fall. This often relates to field instructor availability, program timing (for example, client groups may start in January - thus the placement is inappropriate for Fall Block and Summer Block students) and client/project availability (for example, school board placements are not offered in SW 3DD6 summer block because schools close for the summer before the placement is complete).
the placement is suitable for one kind of learning experience (for example, a block placement is more suitable for acute care hospital setting or a third year experience is more appropriate where there is only the opportunity for co-therapy - not independent work).

I am in Summer Block and plan to do my fourth level placement in September, when do I find out about placements for the Fall?

There will be a meeting about available placements for fourth year in mid June. Check your email notices sent by Lorna O'Connell.

I called my placement and no one has gotten back to me. What should I do?

This often happens because social workers are quite busy. If you haven’t done so, leave a detailed message about who you are and exactly when and how you can be reached. Leave voice mail messages, resent email messages, and leave a message with a receptionist if possible. If all that fails, email Janice Chaplin, chaplin@mcmaster.ca; perhaps she knows why this is happening and can follow up with the agency.

I went for my interview and the field instructor said they would get back to the school, have you heard?

We will try to be in touch with you as soon as we hear.

I went for my interview and I am not sure if I want the placement. What do I do next?

Consult with your seminar leader or Faculty Field Coordinator. If, after consultation, you decide not to take the placement, discuss who will tell the field instructor, you or the seminar leader. Explore what other placements are still available and meet your learning objectives Be sure not to contact another placement until either the seminar leader or the Faculty Field Coordinator confirms that the placement is still available.

The agency called and said that they were offering the placement to another student, (or the agency said they had decided not to take a student this year). What do I do?

Review the placement list, consider your learning objectives and contact your seminar leader or the Faculty Field Coordinator. Be sure not to contact another placement until either the seminar leader or the Faculty Field Coordinator confirms that the placement is still available.

My placement is confirmed, now what do I do?

Ask your field instructor what you need to do to prepare for the placement. Be sure to ask about the agency’s procedures regarding police check, immunizations, and TB tests. Is there anything else you need to do to prepare? What day have you and the field instructor decided that you will start?


When do placements begin in September?

Normally, they begin the first week of classes after the first seminar; however, you and your field instructor can negotiate an earlier or later start date.

I am wondering about insurance. Where do I find out about it?

See the Field Manual. You will be completing a form in September regarding Workers’ Compensation coverage. If you are going to be using your car for placement, be sure to ask the agency about the amount of insurance you will need. Check to make sure your insurance meets their requirements.

Now that I have arranged my placement, how to I organize my courses?

Make an appointment with Tammy Maikawa to review this.

I want an exemption from placement. Can I have it?

The School has an Advanced Standing Policy about exemptions (advanced standing policy) Consult with Tammy Maikawa. If you think you meet the criteria, submit the required documents to the Director of the School.

How many hours a week do I have to go to placement?

In total you must complete 390 hours. For block students that means you will be in placement the equivalent of 4 days per week (approximately 30 hours per week for 13 weeks). For concurrent students, you will be in placement the equivalent of 2 days a week (approximately 15 hours per week for 26 weeks).

I am working full time (or not available during most days), and want a placement for weekends and evenings. Okay?

Some agencies have flexible hours but it is highly unlikely that there will be a placement that will allow for only weekend and evening work.

Now that I am in my placement, there are some problems, what do I do?

If possible, discuss this as soon as possible with your field instructor. Consult with your seminar class or your seminar leader regarding your concerns and develop a plan to address these. You, your seminar leader and/or your field instructor may want to consult with the Faculty Field Coordinator. Usually, concerns are resolved through these discussions. However, occasionally, you may want to or be advised to have a “Placement in Difficulty” meeting. For more details see the Field Practice Manual 2016-17. Lastly, it is possible to leave a placement and where appropriate, be placed at another agency.

Why aren’t we paid for attending placement?

Social work education has a long history of students learning from social workers in community agencies. These agencies volunteer their time to educate social work students. Similar to other professional programs (medicine - clerkships, nursing, teaching, physiotherapy, occupational therapy) social work has placement courses. These placements courses are for credit and require instruction from an experienced practitioner in the field. They are coordinated through the educational institution and students are graded (often pass/fail) on their performance. Please note that although medical internships and law articling positions are paid employment, they are post degree work experiences that are required before independent professional work can be undertaken. The placements required of Social Work students are educationally focussed. Tasks are designed to reflect learning objectives set out by the student and the school. Unlike a work situation, the student is there to learn and the learning objectives drive the learning, not the needs of the agency. Of course, there is some reciprocity...if it is consistent with the school’s and the student’s learning objectives, a student may be asked to complete a task that is useful to the agency. Different than an employee, the student is supervised and instructed.

Where does our tuition for SW 3DD6 and SW 4DD6 go?

Since these are courses, the university charges tuition. Consider the faculty, administration and field instructor education involved in providing placements.