A joint pilot project between the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services that placed Faculty of Social Work students on placements in rural northern Alberta brought mentors and mentees to ask for more.
“Given the success of this collaboration, other managers have asked, ‘How can we get [practicum students]said Rosalita Jn-Pierre, AHS Manager of Addiction and Mental Health at Northern Lights Regional Health Center in Fort McMurray, which recently hosted five UCalgary students.
“It’s not just Fort McMurray – the whole North Zone is very excited.”
Geneve Berkenkamp, a social work student in Calgary who has gained experience working with clients at the Wood Buffalo Addiction and Mental Health Services walk-in clinic, says she would like to move from permanently in Fort McMurray to continue his practice.
What I love about being rural is that you have the opportunity to really grow and develop your skills. You sometimes wear a lot of different hats.
Berkenkamp adds that her classes at UCalgary with the Faculty of Social Work complemented the internship by providing a grounding in both practice and theory, preparing her for the nuances of caregiving in different community settings.
“You have to be really aware of the impact of relationships on how the client presents themselves – especially when you know it’s hard for clients to be open about what’s going on with them in a group in a small community,” she says. “I think the most important thing for me was to look at the client in their environment – to do a kind of psychosocial assessment.”
“What was really well taught in the social work program was that when [you’re] go out into the world, to note the systemic issues – oppression, history of colonialism – that contribute to this situation.
Emily Goobie, another UCalgary social work internship student who worked with the Northern Lights Crisis Response Team, echoes Berkenkamp’s sentiments..
“Since we are a rural community and work in many indigenous communities in the region who are displaced from health care and mental health services that are adequate and consistent in their lives, being able to apply the ways of aboriginal knowledge, aboriginal social relations work theory and patient centered practice in these situations has been really, really impactful and is definitely something that I will continue to learn to do.
Goobie, who is from Fort McMurray and plans to stay there, says it was through her two internships this year in the Wood Buffalo area that she found the area she would like to focus on after graduation. this spring.
“I accepted my first internship here in the fall with the adult inpatient psychiatry unit and immediately fell in love with the atmosphere. There are so many opportunities for advocacy and for me to really practice my skills in conjunction with the code of ethics. I don’t think I will look back, I love it.
Jn-Pierre says the benefits of the program have been mutual and many social work placement students will return – as employees with SAS.
“I think it’s really an educational institution, a learning environment, and in the end we looked at recruitment as part of our strategy,” she says. “We considered it an extended orientation and it worked very well – we were able to fill some vacancies for almost a year.