Allison Burt joined UNE’s on-campus MSW program in Fall 2020 and is expected to graduate in 2022. She is pursuing both the Trauma Certificate and the Training in Aging and Diversity Certificate. We interviewed her recently about why she chose social work, these specific certificates, and what she’s up to in her Field Placement. Keep reading to hear what she has to say!
MEET ALLISON BURT:
What drew you to social work?
I’ve always been a people-person, but was unsure what to do with that. After I graduated with my undergraduate degree in Humanities (which is what you get when you mix history, linguistics, literature, philosophy, anthropology, law, politics, religion, and art together) I started working at the California Department of Public Health – which is actually where I’m still working while in grad school. My combined love of humanity and healthcare lead me directly to social work, specifically medical social work.
Why did you choose the Trauma and TRIAD certificates?
I decided to apply for the TRIAD certificate, and will be applying for the Trauma certificate. A huge draw towards UNE for me was the opportunity to earn these extra certificates; without any additional cost (in fact – the TRIAD certificate comes with a sweet $10,000 grant!) My second year field-placement will be at Northern Light Home Care and Hospice, which parallels perfectly to the TRIAD program, and my interest in medical social work!
What do you want to do with your MSW?
Again, medical social work is where it’s at for me! I’ve been with CDPH going on 6 years now, and before that, spent a year working for a west coast based hospital system (shout out to Adventist Health!) I would love to work in a hospital, clinic or other healthcare setting and bridge the gap between the clinical and humanistic.
Where are you doing your field?
I’m interning this year at Gateway Community Services, which serves Maine’s refugee and asylum seeking populations, both in case management roles, as well as supporting those suffering from trauma, and emotional distress.
What is your primary role/duties?
I work with several case managers, as well as my supervisor, on assessments, home-visits, referrals, research and logistic planning. With COVID-19, it’s been difficult to do the amount of home-visits that the agency would normally be doing, so telehealth has been a lifesaver. Zoom IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meetings, and Group Supervision has been a challenge, but I’m grateful for the ability to work remotely, when possible. Every week is different; some days, I go see clients in their homes, to assess how they’re doing, and what they may need, and other days I show up to court as a support system for clients and families. I’m also able to participate in a bunch of different diverse trainings; topics like cultural sensitivity, grief and loss, and policy and advocacy trainings have been wonderful tools to accompany my UNE classes.
Can you speak to how the experience has expanded your social work/knowledge skills?
Every day I learn something new. I like to think that my internship placement is uniquely diverse; where no two days look remotely the same, and I have a lot of opportunities to get involved with my areas of interest. My supervisor is a wonderful wealth of knowledge, who encourages me to seek out development opportunities, and take time to ask questions. It’s immeasurably helpful to learn about Motivation Interviewing in class, and then have an opportunity to practice those skills in the field.
What are the greatest challenges at your field placement?
To nobody’s surprise, my biggest challenge has been COVID-19. It affects everything we do as an agency; and makes social work practice that much more difficult. For the most part, when we visit clients, we also have an interpreter come along, so our clients can communicate in their language of preference. It’s definitely been a learning curve to call the client, and then multiway-call the case manager, BHP (behavioral health professional), interpreter, and anyone else relevant to the situation. It can certainly lead to mixed messages and talking over each other.
Check out this great post about managing stress and cultivating resiliency
What are the greatest rewards at your field placement?
A deeper understanding of the challenges and unique difficulties that New Mainers face when navigating the systems in this country; as well as exposure to policy issues that have powerful impacts.
How does field seminar help you navigate your field placement?
Seminar is my favorite class – it’s more or less group therapy, where we’re allowed to air our grievances with our placements, the world and everything in between.
Is there any advice you would give to students as they decide where to do their field placement?
I was so hyper-focused on a MEDICAL placement for my first year – and during COVID times, it’s exceedingly difficult to find those types of placements. Just like anything else in life, you will get back what you put into your placement – even if it’s not exactly what you thought you wanted. It’s okay to be picky though – after all, this is an experience that you are paying for. Any interview you have is just as much about you interviewing THEM as it is about them interviewing YOU.