Staying current with scholarship enriches the work of field educators: it teaches us innovative ways to solve perennial field problems, suggests new readings for field seminars, keeps us abreast of current debates in social work education, and even inspires us in our own writing on theory and research. “What We’re Reading” presents our brief summaries of the findings of recent publications in field education. Our emphasis is on implications for practice. Readers are encouraged to suggest articles or books for future review.

Ashford, J. B., & Lateef, H. (2021). Field note—Serving Miller youth: An interprofessional initiative for educating law and social work students. Journal of Social Work Education, 57(2), 405–411.

This article describes an interprofessional training program for social work and law students that prepares students to work with juvenile offenders with life sentences who are now eligible for release as a result of the 2012 Miller v. Alabama decision. The decision found that life sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional. The article explains the implications of the decision for legal services and the need for a holistic defense strategy for inmates seeking redress under Miller. Holistic defense combines a bio-psychosocial approach with legal defense strategies.

Using the University of Arizona’s Sandra Day O’Conner School of Law postconviction clinic as a case example, the authors illustrate the rich learning afforded social work interns in an interprofessional setting in which social work interns and law students collaborate to seek release for individuals who have received life sentences as juveniles. To be effective as a social worker in this postconviction clinic, both field instructors and interns require training in several specialized skills and knowledge areas, including understanding basic legal terminology, understanding prison culture and the safety protocol for working inside prisons, applying the legal concepts of transient immaturity and irreparable corruption to bio-psychosocial assessments, understanding the differences between the social work and legal approaches, learning how to prepare a client for a parole hearing, and developing skills in creating effective reentry and reunification plans for clients and their families.

The authors encourage social work educators to seek training partnerships with law school clinics, such as the partnership described in the article. Using an interprofessional and holistic approach to legal services, social workers and lawyers can develop new strategies to reform postconviction injustices and to win release successfully for those individuals impacted by historically inequitable and racist policies.

Cuseglio, R. (2021). MSW interns in the public library: A case study in community partnership. Social Work Education: The International Journal, 40(5), 671–683.

In an effort to respond to the growing population of vulnerable public library patrons with complex social needs, libraries are increasingly seeking trained social workers to complement their staffs. This article discusses opportunities available to schools of social work for partnering with public libraries to provide MSW field placements in this expanding area of social work practice.

By examining the partnership between a New Jersey public library and the Monmouth University School of Social Work, the article provides a rich case study of the benefits and challenges offered by field placements in public libraries. A major challenge identified in the case study is the availability of qualified field instructors, for the reason that it is still not common for a public library to have social worker on staff. The field instruction described in the case study was provided by a retired social worker who volunteered at the library; a librarian served as the task supervisor. An additional challenge was role confusion caused by the lack of knowledge about the differences in how a social worker and a librarian approach a patron in need of assistance with resources or a referral. Benefits of library-based field placements were directly linked to increased social work services for patrons seeking help with connecting to community resources. In addition to a description of the partnership between a public library and a school of social work, the article provides a useful overview of the librarian profession, and explains the purpose, mission, and value orientation of public libraries, noting that social inclusion and equality are among their core organizing principles. Overall, the case study makes evident that the overlap between social work and public library values provides a strong foundation for future collaborative training partnerships.

Ting, L., Emery, L., & Sacco, P. (2021). Implementation challenges of SBIRT in social work education and practice: Perspectives of students, field instructors, and faculty. Journal of Social Work Education, 57, 113–126.

Alcohol misuse and illicit substance use continues to be a public health problem throughout the world. Regardless of the setting in which a social worker practices, they likely will encounter an individual impacted by the misuse of substances. As a result, social workers are trained in screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment, also known as SBIRT. While SBIRT is an evidence-based practice model that is integrated into social work curricula, challenges still exist within the implementation and dissemination of SBIRT in actual practice settings. Therefore, researchers set out to identify barriers to and facilitators of implementing SBIRT, as well as sustaining SBIRT training programs.

With the perspectives of 14 MSW students, 10 field instructors, and 7 faculty members in a social work program, researchers were able to identify three themes. The first theme was SBIRT training feedback. Participants generally spoke positively about the evidence-based model by reporting the need for universal SBIRT screening as well as the teaching of the model in various job fields, including medicine. However, students in particular noted the need for tailored training in order to demonstrate how widely applicable SBIRT can be within different agencies and practice settings. Field instructors also identified the need for SBIRT to be demonstrated in varying settings, and further recommended follow-up training with students that focuses on implementation within agencies to ensure the student feels they are accurately implementing SBIRT into their practice.

The second theme to emerge identified the barriers to and facilitators of SBIRT implementation. In regard to barriers, participants mainly reported institutional challenges that prevented the implementation of SBIRT, including agency-specific policies, lack of standardized instruments, limited time with clients, the setting and population of their practice setting, and their role as a clinician within the setting. However, some participants further identified personal barriers that prevented them from utilizing SBIRT, including their own discomfort with discussing substance use, a lack of confidence in using SBIRT, and resistance to changing their professional practice in order to integrate SBIRT into their screening tools. Though participants reported a variety of barriers, the also identified facilitators, such as agency-managed policies regarding implementing the SBIRT, staff who support the use of SBIRT, and the personal willingness, acceptance, and confidence in using the model.

Lastly, participants offered suggestions on ways to sustain SBIRT implementation. Suggestions included empowering students and staff to advocate for the need to implement SBIRT within their agency; advocating for administrative support for policy change in agencies that do not utilize the model; offering training programs or review sessions to encourage the continued use of the model; and allocating resources to fund the training programs. Authors support these recommendations, and conclude by further advocating for the need for funding programs that offer SBIRT training sessions. Additionally, authors recommend that training programs provide trainees with specific ways to overcome the identified implementation barriers as well as directly address the personal barriers that impede the use of SBIRT, such as discomfort and lack of confidence. Lastly, given the evidence-based support of SBIRT, authors encourage the continued exploration of barriers to implementation of the model in order to further support students and practitioners in integrating SBIRT into their practice.