One of the mandates for social workers (especially those who have received licensure) is to stay up to date in the field. This ensures that social workers are always learning the most current and effective ways to engage with individuals, families, and communities based on the constantly-evolving evidence base for social work practice. To align with social work’s ethical values and principles, social work students and practitioners stay abreast of innovations and new findings in social work research in order to provide the best possible support to clients.
Keeping up to date with the entire field of social work would be a daunting task, so social work students and practitioners should hone in on the issues and topics most relevant to their interests and practice areas and make sure to stay up to date on those. Social workers who practice with a specific population will want to focus on the issues most relevant to their clients; macro-level social workers will want to stay informed about policy changes; social workers practicing with communities should be aware of new interventions and models of engagement.
Once you have identified which areas of the broad field of social work practice are most relevant to your work, you can follow these simple tips to stay current.
- Subscribe to Journals – There are many scholarly journals of social work published on a monthly or quarterly basis by academic publishers, and they provide a vast array of articles on social work topics by scholars and practitioners in the field. No one can be expected to subscribe to all of them, but choosing a few that are specific to your interest area and reading them regularly is a great way to stay up to date. Search for journals on specific social work topics like “Social Work with Children,” “Family Practice” or “School Social Work” and then evaluate their quality and relevance to you by examining their Impact Factor and browsing their archives. Then, subscribe to a few and read through their articles every time they publish.
- Join a professional association – Professional association membership is a great way to stay in the loop about social work matters. In addition to connecting you with other social work professionals, these associations generally send out regular updates to their membership that include the latest reports and articles, as well as alerts for upcoming opportunities. Many professional associations also publish a journal, and membership in the association sometimes provides free journal access.
- Attend conferences – Conferences help you re-energize, network with other social workers, and learn the absolute latest about what’s happening in the field. Oftentimes, social work practitioners and scholars will present their latest findings at conferences before they are available for publication. In many cases, you can earn Continuing Education Units for attending a conference as well!
- Attend trainings – Whether or not you need Continuing Education Units, you should regularly look for trainings on topics of interest to you. This will keep you up to date in the latest modalities and give you hands-on experience in practicing them.
- Google Alerts – Setting a google alert is an effective way to stay up to date on news articles and scholarly publications that contain a certain set of keywords. Simply select the keywords most relevant to you (like “school social work”) and you will get an email notification anytime new content containing your keywords comes up in Google’s search engine. Google Alerts are especially helpful for keeping up with policy changes that may impact your clients.
- Talk to your colleagues – Chances are your colleagues at work or fellow social work alumni are interested in staying up to date on many of the same topics as you! Reach out to them to start a reading group or email chain for reports, articles, policy pieces, etc. Not only does this offer you a chance to stay current, you can also hold one another accountable for reading!
- Ask a mentor – If you have a mentor at work or at school, ask them to point you in the right direction for publications you should be aware of, scholars whose work you should be reading, or innovative approaches you should know about. Ask them what they are reading, or better yet, what they have recently written, and add it to your reading list!
- Talk to your librarian – If you are still in school, or through your alumni network, talking to a librarian is recommended for assistance on staying up to date with your field. Librarians are a wealth of information and an underutilized resource on college campuses. Talk to them about what resources are available, how best to conduct your journal searches, and other ideas they might have for keeping current in your field.
Following these simple guidelines will go a long way in keeping yourself up to date on the social work research most relevant to your area of practice!