This week, Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill that would require Social Workers to receive continuing education credits to maintain their license. Beginning January 1, 2015, social workers will need to have 36 hours every three years. This is a fairly low number when compared to other states with similar licensing requirements, and even lower when looking at other professions with mandated continuing education. Currently, some social workers in New York are already required to receive continuing education by their employer but there has yet to be a legal mandate to do so.
There are those who are aghast that such a bill is in place, stating that it is further straining an already tired profession. Personally and professionally I disagree. Social workers are mental health providers and have an ethical responsibility to be up to date on current practices, resources, and data, regardless of the population they work with. It is true that social workers are tired, overworked and underpaid, but not having continuing education will hurt the profession in the long run, especially as we try revitalize it. Doctors, nurses, teachers, and other mental health workers are required to continue their education leaving social work in a weaker position comparatively. Coming out of school, no one can say that they are experts in their field and even with years under their belts, professionals may not be on the top of their game unless they make it a point to keep up with the latest research. It is far too easy to get stuck in a pattern and become obsolete. Despite our training, social workers are not well known and respected for our contributions to research and policy. To be taken seriously as the versatile profession that we are, we must display an ability to learn and grow with the times.
Continuing education is congruent with the NASW social work code of ethics. Their might be some bumps in the road as agencies and organizations are forced to loosen their policies on allowing workers to attend training and while these are certainly issues to consider, it does not negate the importance of the requirement.
Social workers must become united, not only to advocate for themselves, but in our requirements for licensing, education, and title protection. It isn’t difficult to understand how the current menagerie of policies can negatively affect our jobs, hours, caseloads, and salaries. United we can remedy this.
For more information on how you can become involved, check out our Social Work Reinvestment Act Petition.
Written By Courtney Kidd, LMSW