Online Continuing Education for Social Workers: Myths and Facts Q & A
Over 2,000 health professionals have received palliative care education since the CSU Institute for Palliative Care offered its first class in the fall of 2013. With over 2,200 accredited continuing education providers in the United States, what makes a course taken from the CSU Institute for Palliative Care worthwhile?
To find out, we asked a social work professional to describe her experience as one of our students in our 9-month instructor led online course. Her answers might surprise you! Here is what Anne Front had to say about the Institute’s Post-MSW Palliative Care Certificate course.
Institute – Q: Tell us about your experience taking this course.
Anne – A: This course was a career changer for me. I have years of experience with other populations. When I entered into the palliative care field, I felt like I was beginning again. Taking the class steered me in the right direction, while also reminding me of my skills – working with palliative care patients is such a human task, being there for patient and families whatever they are going through. This class gave me the knowledge on issues and the support to build my role as a palliative care social worker.
Institute – Q: What was the most surprising thing about this course for you?
Anne – A: There were so many surprises for me. People say we are the 2nd generation of palliative care. The leaders in our field have done so much to pave the way, and now palliative care is blooming throughout the country and the world. In the course I heard other people’s journeys in building palliative care teams and creating social work roles, from all over the world! I received top-notch direction from those who have been there before, who look at things differently than myself, and who pushed me to my limits while being very supportive. It was an incredibly powerful experience.
Institute – Q: How has your experience in this course influenced your career or workplace performance?
Anne – A: This course certainly changed the way I work, but also the way my team works. The topics were thorough and the discussions challenged my thought process. I took information, video clips, and cases that I worked on back to my team, we opened up in dialogue about what we were doing well, where we needed to improve and what direction we would go.
Institute – Q: What was the most interesting thing for you about this course?
Anne – A: It was all so interesting and to be honest, I wish it had kept going. It was a really good peer supervision group on top of challenging information and discussions. It opened up my own eyes, and I believe my classmates’ eyes too. It challenged us to be leaders in our organizations, and in our field.
Institute – Q: Can you summarize why this course has been helpful for your career?
Anne – A: It was been helpful with clarifying my role as a palliative care social worker and working as a team within an organization. It helped me move from cautiously working in a shadow, fearful of upsetting the apple cart, to finding my voice, to be a leader on the team and within the organization in palliative care. It helped me to have knowledge and a framework to deal with ethical situations that come up regularly. It taught me about different therapy styles that are beneficial in communicating with palliative care patients & families. It helped me build a network of support that I can turn to when I don’t know the answers, need a sounding board, or need a virtual hug.
Institute – Q: What are some of the myths a prospective student might have about taking an online course like this?
Anne – A: One myth is that I already know how to do my job, what more do I need to learn? This is not a course where you read and take a test, or where you go to a conference, listen and leave. This is a course where you read, write and have a week to dialogue on the assignments with others on your ideas and theirs. You think through the issues, not just pocket ideas for later consumption, and you can apply them in your work immediately.
Another myth is that it may be too time consuming or difficult in an online format. The course takes about 4-8 hours per week depending how much a person wants to put into it. This may sound like a lot, but with the course being open 24/7, people respond in short chunks of time, and ideas percolate over the week. The online is very easy to get used to. The difference between online and classroom is the amount of time you have to do the work, discuss and gain feedback from others. The administrative support is incredible and readily available to help. And the support of the instructors is overwhelmingly positive – if there is a reason why you can’t do as much one week, the instructors can help problem solve and provide flexibility. They want you to succeed!
Institute – Q: You’ve now taken on the role of instructor in these courses. What advice would you have for a social worker who’s thinking about taking the courses but not quite sure if it’s right for them?
Anne – A: Jump in – take a risk. You won’t regret it. Whatever sacrifices you make will be well worth it. So many students tell me the first week that they are afraid of the online system or the time commitment because of whatever reason, but at the end, they are wishing for more, not wanting it to end. This is a very powerful learning experience and what you will take away at the end is both practical and immeasurable.
About Anne Front
Anne Front is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Studio City, CA. She is the Palliative Care Counselor at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in the critical care, oncology and medical units. She serves on the hospital’s Cancer Committee and Bio-Ethics Committee. She is a certified Grief Recovery Specialist and an Allied Health Professional. In her outpatient private practice, she sees a variety of clients and families dealing with relationships, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, chronic illness and addictions. She facilitates caregivers and cancer survivor support groups. Anne has completed, and is now an instructor for the CSU Institute for Palliative Care’s online courses, Critical Palliative Care Skills for Social Workers and the Post-MSW Palliative Care Certificate.
Anne and her husband co-own Systems Workshops, a community and continuing education company that provides workshops on mindfulness based stress reduction and a variety of related programs and stress management classes. They have two teenage children who both nourish, and heart-fully provide unlimited opportunities to practice their stress management skills.