A survey of social work students' competency and readiness to work with older adults
This project aims to bring increased awareness to the needs of the vulnerable population of older adults. This study explored whether education level and specialized training correlated with how competent and ready California State University, Sacramento social work students are to work with the older adult population. The researchers predicted the Master of Social Work students in the Health and Aging specialization would be more competent and ready as opposed to their peers in the Children and Families and Behavioral Health specializations. The researcher’s prediction was based on the assumption that the Health and Aging specialization provides more specialized training geared towards working with older adults. The researchers hypothesized that higher education levels would yield better preparation for students to work with a broad demographic of clients. Therefore, the researchers predicted that the Bachelor of Social Work students would be least competent and ready to work with the older adult population compared to the Master of Social Work students from all three areas of specialization. The participants for this study consisted of 33 Bachelor of Social Work students, 18 Master of Social Work students in Health and Aging specialization, 17 Master of Social Work students in Children and Families specialization, and 15 Master of Social Work students in Behavioral Health. A total of 83 students participated in the questionnaire survey. The findings revealed the Master of Social Work Behavioral Health students were most competent and ready, while the Bachelor of Social Work students were least competent and ready. The overall scores of all students in each category of knowledge, attitude, and skill were unsatisfactory, as the average total score from all students ranges from 62 to 68%. These scores are concerning as it is expected the average individual completing a survey questionnaire would score at least at a 50% by just randomized guessing. The students did not score much higher even though the expectation is that they would have been provided a more robust preparation and training through the social work program. It is recommended that the California State University, Sacramento Division of Social Work, further expand on their gerontological training. Some ways in which this can be done is by offering training on Sacramento County’s Adult Protective Services, adding more micro, mezzo and macro gerontological field placements, and expanding gerontological course offerings. Further research will be needed to assess the most effective way to integrate these recommendations into the existing California State University, Sacramento Division of Social Work.