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Social workers

Welcome to social work education at Sunnybrook. Our hope is that the following information will answer the question: Why come to Sunnybrook for your clinical education?

In essence our goal is to provide excellence in all of our teaching activities. As such we are recognized as a leader in the field of social work education. Furthermore, as one of the largest tertiary care centers in Ontario, we offer students a breadth and depth of learning opportunities across multiple aspects of health care, enabling them the unique experience to link their classroom teaching with the realities of the field.

In total there is 60 staff at Sunnybrook, equaling 56.2 FTE. All staff is MSW trained and members in good standing with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. We have a commitment to clinical education and are closely linked to the Factor Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto (FIFSW).

Each year our social workers are actively involved in multiple components of our social work student education program including: supervising MSW student clinical placements, engaging in shadow visits with students who are in an MSW program or who are interested in studying social work, providing seminars for students related to various aspects of health care social work practice, and undertaking various teaching activities at the FIFSW. We offer approximately 15 MSW placements annually at our facility.

Information provided here has been designed for current or potential social work students and social work educators.

Program structure

Sunnybrook is organized in a program management model. Social work practice is under the leadership of Lina Gagliardi (416-480-4480). Social workers work in all the major programs in the hospital and across the continuum of health care (acute to chronic, in-patient to out-patient), and across the continuum of life (newborn to end of life). We are proud to offer a range of rich learning opportunities to our students that are not readily available at other institutions.

Student education is coordinated by the social work education practice leader, Illana Perlman (416-480-4817). Illana is located at the Bayview campus and coordinates education activities for both the Bayview and Holland sites. As a teaching centre for the University of Toronto, priority is given to placing MSW students from that university. Students are accepted from a variety of MSW programs, both in Ontario and outside the province, based on affiliation agreements. All enquiries should be through the placement coordinator/practicum director of the university to Illana Perlman. Interested students are asked not to contact Illana Perlman or Sunnybrook social workers directly regarding any potential placements.

At the onset of the placement, students are provided with a comprehensive orientation program and process that is implemented by Illana Perlman. This helps students become familiar with the hospital and its policies and procedures and is particularly helpful for students who might not have a health care background. Social work students are provided with offices to enable them to undertake the work necessary for a student within this profession. Offices are shared among the students and equipped with telephones and computers. Students are also set up with their individual access to hospital voice mail and email systems.

Student internship structure

Each year, the social work service offers a variety of placement opportunities, depending on the availability of instructors for that term. Students are matched according to their university's particular matching process, which typically involves the student being interviewed by the potential instructor/s. We offer a range of placement models including: one student to one instructor for the entirety of the placement, one student to two instructors throughout the placement (usually within similar areas in the hospital), a rotational model whereby the student rotates through two or three instructors, in discrete blocks (usually in related areas in the hospital), or one rotation with one instructor within Sunnybrook, with the second rotation pre-arranged at another teaching hospital with another instructor (in an area that compliments the first rotation).

Each term, Illana Perlman coordinates the placements that are available in the hospital, based on those which are offered by the clinicians in the hospital. Instructors are expected to offer a minimum of one placement every two years, in line with the service's student education standard.

Length of internship

Timing and length of placement depends on the particular university that the student is attending. Typically our MSW year two students from the FIFSW are in placement from September through April (Wednesdays - Fridays), and our MSW year one students are in placement from January through May (Wednesdays - Fridays until April, and Tuesdays - Friday from April - May). The Canadian Association of Schools of Social Work sets the requirements for the minimum numbers of hours in practicum.

Typically our MSW students are in placement from Sept - May; however we do occasionally have social work students in a block placement through the summer.

Assessment of students

All students are required to complete a learning contract within the first month of placement, outlining their specific and individualized learning goals and objectives.

Students are then assessed according to the process and tools unique to their learning institution. Social work students from the FIFSW at the University of Toronto are assessed using the online evaluation tool developed by the FIFSW, entitled the practice-based evaluation tool (PBE). This process involves a midterm and a final evaluation, undertaken independently by both instructor and student. The evaluation tool is available on the University's online practicum administration system (the PAS), to which each student and each instructor has a password to access. The education practice leader is required to sign off on all evaluations.

Upon completion of internship

Students are required to complete a one page evaluation of placement questionnaire, developed by Illana Perlman to obtain feedback on the placement. Students are also required to complete any hospital-wide evaluation questionnaires that are available online.

Upon successful completion of the MSW program, students are conferred with an MSW and are eligible to apply for registration with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. Such registration ensures their designation as a Registered Social Worker (RSW). This registration is required by Sunnybrook in order to be employed here.

Regulatory body information

The social work profession in Ontario is regulated by the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. This body provides regulation standards for practicing Social Workers.

The Ontario Association of Social Workers is the provincial professional association and the Canadian Association of Social Workers is the national professional association. These web sites provide information on practice as well as courses and conferences that are offered.

Other educational structures/initiatives/information

The social work practice council at Sunnybrook has developed a comprehensive document of standards for social work practice at this organization, which gives concrete guidelines for practice and identifies expectations accordingly. This is a useful resource for students to help them become familiar with hospital social work practice. Moreover, one of the standards is specific to social work student education and sets out the requirements for staff in this context.

Sunnybrook has a process for recognizing excellence in clinical teaching, with the professional advisory council (PAC) teaching awards that are available annually. Information about these awards is posted on our intranet, with the application deadline usually being in April.

Contact information

Professional leader
Lina Gagliardi
Phone: 416-480-4480
Email: lina.gagliardi

Education practice leader
Illana Perlman
Phone: 416-480-4817
Email: illana.perlman