Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Staying Connected and Healthy

What keeps us going in social work? How do we reduce or avoid the impact of compassion fatigue and burn out? In my professional life, membership in the National Association of Social Workers has become a key piece of my support for professional mental health.

What is NASW? NASW is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with 150,000 members. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.

Because I am actively involved in our state and branch activities, I have met other social workers who I wouldn't met in the course of my day-to-day work at TCU, teaching students, grading papers, working with field instructors, going to faculty meetings..... etc. This opportunity for professional networking would only happen at NASW Texas conferences or other professional conferences that only happen once a year. By volunteering to serve as the Tarrant Branch NLIC (national leadership identification committee) representative, I have joined a great group of local social work leaders who work to give our members a place and opportunity for professional development, networking, and support. I am re-energized for my work at TCU because of my professional network!!

When I talk with students about NASW, I tell them that their dues are worth every hard earned penny because they can meet and connect with other social work professioanals at the local, state, and national level. A hallmark of an effective and competent social worker can be measured by the extent and depth of their professional relationships with other social workers. As newly developing professionals, my students often ask, "How can I get a good start in a job after graduation?" My first answer is always, get involved with NASW. The informal networking that happens at NASW events provides a better opportunity to hear about job opportunities.

Being a member of NASW means that I get up-to-date information about local, state, and national issues that impact my work at TCU. I receive emails with announcements of job opportunities, continuing education workshops, legislative updates and more that I often can immediatley use either in a class I am teaching or in advising a student.

Finally, I see a clear link to the importance of networking to the value of the importance of human relationships as stated in the NASW Code of Ethics.

Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.

Clearly, this principle applies to our work with clients, but it also applies to our relationship to our colleagues and our profession. Doesn't it make sense that if we are to be healthy, competent, effective professionals, we have ways to take care of ourselves? Networking is one of many strategies I use to insure my professional health and protects or reduces the impact of compassion fatigue in my work as a social work professor and NASW is a big part of it all.

To join NASW, go to Will you let me know if you have decided to become a member of NASW?