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Student Safety

Student safety is of paramount concern.  The FIFSW, MSW students, and our partners in field education have collaborative roles and responsibilities to ensure safety in the practicum.

The FIFSW:

  • Communicates to all agencies that  appropriate safety policies and procedures are established prior to MSW students commencing the practicum
  • Practicum Office staff will be available to support all stakeholders to enhance safety
  • Documents, assesses, and works to resolve any incidents that threaten the student’s physical and emotional well-being while in practicum
  • Faculty-Field Liaisons will be available to conduct site visits to discuss safety issues upon request

The Field Instructor/Placement Agency will:

  • Establish, and review on an ongoing basis, comprehensive safety policies and procedures that address protocols for preventing, assessing, and responding to risk
  • Orient students to policies and procedures regarding risk management and staff/student/client safety, including fire procedures
  • Advise students of any known risks associated with the practicum setting and/or population served
  • Complete the Checklist I: Practicum Safety and Orientation and Checklist II Practicum Learning and Reflection

The Practicum Student will:

  • Be aware of any safety risks associated with their practicum
  • Inquire about the practicum site’s formal and informal methods for assessing and handling risky situations
  • Notify and discuss safety concerns with the field instructor(s), educational coordinator (if applicable), FFL, or the Practicum Office.  In exceptional circumstances, if none of the above can be reached, the student will consider the risks and act in a manner that ensures their safety
  • Immediately report any incidents of threat or harm to the field instructor and the Practicum Office
  • Complete the Checklist I: Practicum Safety and Orientation at the start of the practicum/rotation and Checklist II Practicum Learning and Reflection at the practicum mid-point.
  • Provide all relevant information on Home/Community Visiting in their Learning Contract

 

Home/Community Sessions

Home and community sessions are cited in the literature as providing invaluable information about clients and their environments.  Inherent in home and community visits, there are a number of challenges which protocol and safety practices in the field can address.

To mitigate the specific challenges of practicum activities outside of the agency, consider the following:

Before a student is required to conduct an independent home/community session:

  • The student will receive training on how to identify signs of agitation, de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, as well as how and when to enlist assistance
  • The student will be provided with opportunities to observe and shadow the work of the field instructor in the home/community environment
  • Clients/work assignments will be pre-screened to assess any history of violence, and will balance the complexity and the level of risk with the student’s knowledge, skills and experience
  • Field instructors will introduce clients to the student and explain their role within the agency
  • Learning objectives for the session will be clearly established
  • A cellular phone shall be accessible so that the student can maintain contact with the agency at all times
  • The student will provide the agency with their itinerary for the session, as well as their current address, phone number and emergency contact details

While in the home/community:

  • Depending on the practicum setting, the option to have an escort shall  be provided
  • The student will contact the supervisor/designate when commencing and completing the session
  • If upon arrival the environment is determined to be unsafe, the student is instructed to decline or terminate the session

After the home/community session:

  • The field instructor and student will hold a debriefing session to address learning objectives

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Coverage

Students are responsible for reporting any accident immediately to the setting (Field Instructor, Educational Coordinator if applicable) and to the Practicum Office.  Students must sign a “Declaration of Understanding – Workplace Safety and Insurance Board or Private Insurance Coverage for Students on Program Related Placements” prior to the start of the practicum.  This declaration states “I understand that all accidents sustained while participating in an unpaid work placement must be reported to the Placement Employer and my University of Toronto, FIFSW Practicum placement coordinator.  A Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) Postsecondary Student Unpaid Work Placement Workplace Insurance Claim form must be completed in the event of an injury.”

The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities provides students with coverage through either WSIB or Chubb private insurance while registered in the practicumcourse. Coverage does not include classroom instruction or orientation that is held outside of the scheduled practicum.

Practicum Disruptions Due to Inclement Weather

Students who are in social work practicums in the winter (and even fall) semester can expect inclement weather – heavy snowfalls and icy conditions – that may make commuting to the practicum site unwise, or that may result in the closure of the practicum site. Please know that, in addition to successfully demonstrating competencies as per the practicum evaluation tool, students are required to complete a pre-determined number of practicum hours. Hours missed due to inclement weather must be made up, regardless of whether the decision not to attend was made by the student or the site. Emergency personal days may not be used for inclement weather. Students are encouraged to anticipate a closure and discuss make-up hours with the field instructor in advance.

Options include:

  • Utilizing any extra hours accumulated to make up hours missed due to weather
  • Adding the missed hours either during the remaining practicum weeks, or at the end
  • Arranging for an assignment (to be evaluated by the field instructor) that does not require travel to the site (participating in conference calls, written assignments, etc.)

Feel free to discuss these or other options with your Faculty-Field Liaison.

The University of Toronto protocol regarding closures due to inclement weather can be found at https://www.provost.utoronto.ca/planning-policy/cancellation-of-classes-university-closure-adverse-weather/ .

 

Personal and Confidential Information

Privacy protection is a legal, professional, and ethical responsibility.

When in practicum, you are required to comply with applicable professional standards (see CASW, OCSWSSW and University of Toronto links below) as well as legal requirements and policies of your practicum setting for privacy, and security standards for personal and other confidential information.

Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics (2005) Value 5: Confidentiality in Professional Practice

The OCSWSSW, Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (2018), Paragraph 6

University of Toronto requires encryption of all personal and confidential electronic information that is kept outside of secure U of T servers.  Please review the “Policies and Guidelines” section of the Manual Encrypting Personal and Confidential Information and refer to the University of Toronto FIPPA Guidelines Regarding Security for Personal and Other Confidential Information.

 

Sharing of Information

The University of Toronto respects student’s privacy.

Personal information that you provide to the University is collected pursuant to section 2(14) of the University of Toronto Act, 1971. It may be used and disclosed as necessary for official university purposes and shared within the university on a need-to-know basis.

Information about you will also be shared as necessary for your classroom or field education in the program, to support your success in the program, and to provide letters of reference in the future.

The field practicum is an integral part of the program. Information about you will be shared with agency representatives, field instructors, field liaisons and educational coordinators as necessary to support and evaluate your progress.

The University will protect your information in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.