Colleague 1: Alyssa
- Personal Safety Plan
- Almost half of all nonfatal injuries in the United States from work-related assaults and violent acts occurred in health care and social services (U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006 as cited in Birkenmaier & Berg-Weger, 2018, p. 64). My personal safety plan includes addressing any of the ways in which I have ever thought I could be harmed in my work or field placement setting. Birkenmaier and Berg-Weger suggest speaking with other students and staff at your practicum site to determine the level of risk involved in conducting specific tasks (2018, p. 65). Similar to this suggestion, whenever being assigned a new client, I like to touch base with the client’s previous therapist or staff involved to discuss the clinical details of a client’s case, and any possible warning signs regarding the client’s temperament. This can only happen when the client is stepping down through our agency programs, but I have found it to be helpful when I am able to engage in this practice. Most of my safety planning techniques can be described as preventative. These techniques include: arranging furniture in a way that protects myself, removing projectile objects from client reach, making sure a co-worker or my supervisor knows when I am going into a session, dressing in ways which are not seen as suggestive, and not wearing items that could be used against me (i.e. lanyards without quick release), maintaining awareness of the client’s body language and any indicators that he or she is becoming agitated, and engaging in early de-escalation planning.
Differences from Agency Safety Plan
The primary differences between my own safety planning and that of my agency, surround the concept of suggestion versus necessary. Agency settings can heavily influence the level of perceived risk to the staff (Birkenmaier & Berg-Weger, 2018, p. 65). Therefore, I would rather operate as though I never know how safe I am on any given day. I find that my safety plan is more proactive than the agency’s safety plan. For example, studying the client prior to assignment and the other techniques listed above, are all things I choose to do for my safety, while some are only suggested by the agency. I was provided with a space to complete sessions in my agency, but my seat was located furthest from the door and behind a desk. I sought out the option to place another chair in the room for me to sit in during sessions, closer to the door and with no barriers. Ultimately, I have a job to fulfill in the agency, but I also have a job to return home to my family every night.
Birkenmaier, J., & Berg-Weger, M. (2018). The practicum companion for social work: Integrating class and fieldwork (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson.
Colleague 2: Shaliah
A description of your personal safety plan for your field education experience.
My field experience is at an inpatient drug and alcohol facility. According to Birkenmair & Berg-Weger (2018), the agency setting can significantly influence the level of perceived risk to the staff. Most, if not all, the clients admitted have additional mental health disorders along with their substance use disorder, if that is diagnosed. Considering this, some clients may have violent or aggressive behaviors in which I plan to have my own personal safety plan. I plan to have complete awareness of my surroundings. Luckily the building where I primarily will be in have multiple exits and it is easy to know the blueprint of the building to know where to run, if needed, to safety. In addition to being aware of my surroundings and knowing more than one way to exit the building, being mindful of behaviors and different body cues that may escalate to aggression so I am able to either de-escalate or ask for assistance. I also plan to maintain a good amount of distance when interacting with clients as well as leaving my personal belongings locked safely in my car.
An explanation of how your personal safety plan might differ from your agency safety plan during your field education experience.
My personal safety plan differs from my organization’s as mine does not include a plan for others and overall focus is to not get harmed in any way. My organization has a safety protocol where different color codes are used for different types of emergencies. For example, code red is an emergency where police or an ambulance is needed. In addition to this, new safety protocols are being explored as there was a recent incident where the paramour of a female client came onto the property making verbal threats to everyone and had a weapon in his possession. There was no safety protocol in place to deal with what could have been an active shooter situation.
Birkenmaier, J., & Berg-Weger, M. (2018). The practicum companion for social work: Integrating class and fieldwork (4th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson
Colleague 3: Mikala
Personal Safety Plan
By being in the social work field there is an increased amount of risk (Regehr & Glancy, 2011). As social workers, we can encounter different populations who have different experiences and needs. With that being said, it is important to have a personal safety plan, along with an agency safety plan. In my field placement, I will be providing services in the client’s home, and in the community. There are different steps I take to ensure for my own personal safety. When working with clients, I ensure that my cellphone is always charged, and I have at least a half tank of gas in the car. When working with the clients, I ensure that I know my surroundings and always have an exit plan. I do not go in clients’ rooms, and I make sure that I place myself next to the door. By taking these steps, I can ensure that if something unexpected happens, that I am able to make a quick exit.
Agency Safety Plan compared to Personal
The agency safety plan and my personal safety plan algins together for the most part. Some extra measures that the agency takes is that our supervisors have direct access to our calendars which allows them to see which client we are with and the times. Our agency also has a Text line, that is agency wide for important updates. As an intern at the agency, we are required to shadow therapists to get an understanding on how sessions should go before we get our own clients. When we are working in our office building, there is a security guard, and you need permission to enter the building. Each of these are implemented to ensure for the safety of the employees as well as the clients.
Regehr, C., & Glancy, G. D. (2011). When social workers are stalked: Risks, strategies, and legal protections. Clinical Social Work Journal, 39(3), 232-242.