The Beginners Guide to Professionalism in Social Work Practice

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Why is Professionalism Important in Social Work

I explore why professionalism is key to becoming a great social worker. In addition, I look at how professionalism helps build confidence and trust in social work.

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) sets capability statements of what is to be expected for all stages of a social worker’s career from entry into training to the most advanced level of a social work practitioner.

Professionalism is a key capability under the PCF and it requires upcoming, newly qualified and existing social workers to identify and behave as professional social workers, committed to professional development.

Professionalism refers to the competence, behaviours and abilities you are expected to bring at the work place. 

How Do Social Workers Maintain Professionalism?

Professionalism in social work is one of the key components to maintaining a healthy and positive work environment.

Being polite to co-workers and clients, dressing professionally and upholding company values is part of being respectful to the people you work for/with. When it comes to social work, professionalism is vital as you are often dealing with members of the public daily.

Representing yourself professionally helps to safeguard vulnerable people that you may care for, and protecting yourself, should you be accused of acting inappropriately while at work?

Although I always feel that social work is a rewarding career, it requires a person who can draw an obvious line between their home life and their work.

What Does it Mean to Have Professionalism?

A social worker cares for and supports adults, children, families and groups of people in the community.

Promoting their human rights, protecting vulnerable minorities and ensuring their mental health and safety is a priority. However, when things go wrong in social work, people are quick to point the finger! Social work in the UK is currently regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

By following the regulations and maintaining professionalism while in work, a social worker can protect themselves from being accused should social situations get out of hand, or not go quite to plan.

Although social workers are professionally accountable for their practice, they are also responsible for their actions and must self-regulate to adhere to regulations and government guidelines.

We can enhance this accountability through continued training of staff and creating scenarios and what if situations to ensure social workers understand how to act and what to say should difficult situations arise.

Professionalism in Social Work Practice

Part of being a social work professional is having the ability to build trust. If you’re dealing with emotional situations or with young and vulnerable members of the society, you need to appear as professional as possible. If you don’t look professional, it can be difficult for people to trust you.

Dressing well and being polite, and speaking confidently, positions you as a professional social worker and maintains respect.

Personally, this helps me to take charge of a situation and prevent it from getting out of hand. Social workers can be sued for malpractice in the UK and this is why it is vital to maintain professionalism even when under pressure and in stressful situations.

Professional Leadership in Social Work

Irrespective of which health and social care sector you work for, you represent the company or industry you work for.

Promoting the core values of your role as a social worker, such as confidentiality, dignity and acceptance is just part of your job. In doing this, you are striving to be the best social worker you can as an individual.

Only when people trust social workers to act in their best interest, and on their behalf, is when social work can truly help society and protect those vulnerable members of the community.

Professional Values in Social Work

Professionalism will remain one of the key values in social work. As a public facing career, it is crucial to ensure we are positively representing the industry, establishing relationships and trust and acting in a responsible and ethical way.

Social work is truly a career that demands passion and commitment to professionalism.

Tips on How to Meet the PCF Domain (Professionalism)

  1. Pay attention to your appearance – this includes the clothes you wear, shoes, hair and even the way you walk. I personally find that wearing neutral colours gives an impression that I am focused on my job.
  2. Pay attention to the way you speak. Speak or communicate more clearly and confidently. Learning how to articulate your thoughts in a clear and engaging way is key. If you struggle with speaking confidently, it can hinder your career growth.
  3. Do not consume yourself with negative thoughts such as “I hope I am saying the right thing,” or “am I saying the right thing?” they cause you to sound shaky and you need to shift yourself away from self-doubt to knowing your value.
  4. Ask smart questions – do not be limited in what you know. Broaden your knowledge so you can ask smart questions. The trick here is to ask why? When you ask smart questions, you can drive efficiencies and process improvements as you are asking why things are done in a certain way.
  5. Know when you are not the expert. Don’t speak ‘gibberish’! Saying a lot of wrong things leads to issues where people lose trust in you and will not longer come to you for answers. It is OK not to know much about a particular topic. Take it as a learning opportunity “you can say, I am not an expert in this but we can approach X who is very good” To know when you don’t know something shows maturity and self awareness.
  6. When engaging with people in the community, professionals or colleagues, always do what you say you will do and provide feedback.
  7. Engage in constant reflective practice and
  8. Refer to useful resources regularly.

Conclusion

To conclude, this post has highlighted the fact that professionalism is an important element in social work.

Although as social workers, there is the need for us to make a conscious effort at all times to remain professional, sometimes, we may find ourselves in situations where we cannot maintain our professional stance.

When this happens, it is important that we engage in reflection to think of ways to manage a similar situation in future better.

As social workers, there is the need for us to make a conscious effort at all times to remain professional.

Kindly comment below if you have any views or feedback which can help improve future articles. This will be much appreciated. 🙂

The Beginners Guide to Professionalism in Social Work Practice: Final Thoughts  

Whether you are a social worker or not, there are some skills or competencies expected of you in your role. I would love to know how you maintain professionalism in your role. Kindly leave your comments below!

Essential tips to be more professional

  • Pay attention to your appearance
  • Pay attention to the way you speak.
  • Do not consume yourself with negative thoughts
  • Ask smart questions
  • Know when you are not the expert.
  • always do what you say you will do
  • Engage in constant reflective practice
  • Refer to useful resources regularly.

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12 comments

Oscar June 12, 2020 - 12:59 pm

Helooo over there, a big thanks to you for sharing this insightful and educatinonal piece on the importance of professionalism in social work practice. This is really filled with so much knowledge. Anyways professionalism is really important in socal work practices, it involves bringing together and demonstrating a wide range of knowledge, values and skills with diverse groups of people. 

Reply
socialworkhaven June 12, 2020 - 1:06 pm

Hello Oscar, thank you for taking the time to read this article. Glad to read that you found it useful 🙂

Reply
Sami June 12, 2020 - 1:41 pm

People who work in social services employees are a group who are working directly with people, often in times of crisis with a great deal of responsibility, and little control of the circumstances or outcome.  You can help your clients through the problems they find themselves in, but you can’t choose whether or not the help is accepted, or the suggestions followed.  Professionally dressed, groomed and composed is surely a better way to approach your challenges.  

Being able to separate yourself from work would be a challenge as well.  Knowing the tendencies of human nature, and how hard it is to change whatever brought this person to your attention in the real world, keeping a positive outlook and being able to help people help themselves.  

These are all so important to maintain your own perspective for your own life. Your statement about knowing that when things get out of your control, reflecting on the process and figuring out how to do things differently next time is better than blaming your self for a less than successful outcome is important to do your job well. 

 I am not a social worker, but with my own family, I have tried to help and the outcome was less than desired.  Had I let that overwhelm me as a Mom, I would have had 3 kids abandoned.  We just have to learn from the experience and moved on.  (I needed to know the professional appearances for Moms, that might have helped!)

Reply
socialworkhaven June 12, 2020 - 2:18 pm

Hello Sami, thanks for your constructive feedback:)  

Most certainly we work directly with people and the responsibility can be a bit overwhelming but as you rightly say, it is important that we keep a positive outlook at all times. Social work is an everyday activity and I think as a mum you have done a lot of social work related tasks and activities without being aware! As a mother of 3 myself, I would like to think that our appearance and grooming is equally as important as a professional social worker. For starters, grooming and self-care prevents us from getting overwhelmed! Interestingly, my post (s) in the month of July will include a research on self-care and how this impacts on our overall wellbeing 🙂 

Reply
David Buckley June 12, 2020 - 4:05 pm

What a slick looking professional site. Great waterfall, easy on th eye, full of inspiration and sectioned well. I like the whole look of the site and it gives a real feeling of calmness, which is what we need at the moment. I was the first person to like the bit on Professionalism, so that’s a first for me. Well done

Reply
socialworkhaven June 12, 2020 - 4:58 pm

Glad you stopped by:) It is quite chaotic at present and some calmness certainly helps!

Reply
evansese June 13, 2020 - 12:03 am

hello dear,

what a fantastic post you have on the topic professionalism in social work practice, as a blogger such an lightning post is of immense benefit because it keeps people intrigued and coming back for more of such post, I have learnt a lot from this very post on the importance of professionalism in social work practice, it is indeed very informative and thank you very much for your time and effort put in writing such a wonderful post…

thanks for sharing have a great day

Reply
socialworkhaven June 13, 2020 - 7:48 am

Its great to read that you have found this post useful. Thanks for stopping by 🙂 

Reply
loveremma June 13, 2020 - 12:03 am

This website is one of a kind. You are very active and I know you are ready to share your rich knowledge with the world. I appreciate you for swinging these wisdom my way.

This website reminded me of how important it is to be confident and also most importantly of being a professional. I appreciate kudos to you.thanks.

Reply
socialworkhaven June 13, 2020 - 7:52 am

Thanks for taking the time to share your views 🙂 

Reply
edahnewton1 June 13, 2020 - 12:07 am

Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts are indeed invaluable. I would say that most people who engage in social work profession are motivated by the desire to help others as well as the desire to change their world. Social workers have a hard job and we all know they aren’t paid very well. Social workers are often the front line for protecting children and families from harm

Reply
socialworkhaven June 13, 2020 - 7:51 am

I agree with you. Front line social work can be tough however, the desire to improve lives keeps us going 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! 

Reply

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