It's no secret that technology has taken over all sectors of the economy, from health to education and industrial production. The social work sector is no exception. As new technological advances affect the way human beings relate, social workers would be remiss to ignore advancements that could positively impact their clients.
Social workers can incorporate new and emerging technologies through analysis and research in addition to improving client interactions and treatment plans.
Below we'll highlight some ways technology impacts social workers, but if you want more details about earning your MSW and starting a career in social work, read our MSW guide!
Practical Integrations of Technology in Social Work
Through video conferencing and other tools such as text messages, a social worker can stay connected with clients without meeting them physically. These appointments are convenient and easier to carry out. This is especially true for off-site and rural clients whose social workers would traditionally travel long distances for in-person meetings. Social workers can now use applications like FaceTime, Zoom or Google Meet to see their clients more regularly.
The benefits that telehealth has on social workers and clients include:
Getting assistance despite geographical barriers
Easier access in emergency situations
The ability to meet with more clients thanks to reduced travel
A more familiar and comfortable environment for clients who connect from home
Social workers need to be up to par with new methods and current trends. Online resources can help social workers discover and implement new treatments and methodologies. Apart from being on top of the game with information, they can also get continued training and access to newsletters published by reputable social work agencies like NASW and the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
Sometimes client information and records can be disorganized, especially when more than one social worker is on a case. Using collaborative online tools like sharing notes on Google Docs can help share information in an organized and secure way. Eliminating the need for passing files back and forth between social workers.
Online scheduling and management tools can also help social workers with appointments and client communication. Some programs even allow for automated communication and reminders to help both social workers and clients stay on-track.
Online job boards like Indeed make finding a new job far easier than ever before. Some organizations like NASW also post national job listings and professional development and career resources via the Social Work Career Center.
It is easy to access information and programs online that help social workers begin or advance their careers. Online or hybrid undergraduate and graduate programs are convenient and sometimes even faster than traditional on-campus degree programs.
Social workers can also take advantage of continuing education opportunities through online seminars, webinars and conferences.
Ethical Considerations for Social Workers When Using Technology
Before utilizing new technologies, social workers should also consider potential ethical and privacy issues. Managing clients online must also include safeguarding and protecting their privacy, some considerations may include:
Analyzing the best platforms to use with different clients
Establishing boundaries and guidelines of the association
Looking into how people in power use their access to information
Using the guidelines and standards made by the NASW code of ethics together with digital law and policies to guide your decisions
Applying self-regulation and self-reflection in a bid to maintain professionalism at all levels
Learn more about the day-to-day life of social workers in our guide, What Do Social Workers Do?
Limits and Challenges of Technology
A lack of resources may inhibit some social workers from fully integrating technology into their work processes. Even if the resources are present, it is possible for clients to be skeptical about technology and refuse to integrate it. Social workers should be prepared to address and potentially overcome these challenges by educating themselves on the pros and cons of new technologies.
While many of these technological advances will ease the burden for social workers, not all elements of social work can be enhanced by technology. Social work is perhaps one of those sectors that cannot be fully automated. Face-to-face and close interaction will still be necessary.
Getting Started on Your Residential MSW Program
If you are considering studying to become a social worker, then Baylor University is the place to be. For us, social work is about service and justice; it is about the dignity of individuals and the power of relationships; it is about integrity and competence, and our mission here is preparing social workers to do these things well.
The GSSW has a campus in Waco and a virtual campus through our MSWonline and Ph.D. program. Contact us to learn more about our professional degrees and the ethical integration of faith and social work practice.
Advance your social work career with an MSW. Explore this resource to learn more about this degree: Master of Social Work — The MBA of the Helping Professions.