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  • aghinshaw

6 Work Bag Must-Haves for Social Workers in the Field

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

This is a topic that I wish was focused on during my MSW program or even during training at my internships. Most social worker internships and jobs will require some amount of in-field work. You may have to travel out to homes, schools, government agencies, food banks, or even parks to meet with clients. Below are a list of items that I found helpful to have in my work bag to feel more prepared for my in-field sessions.

Notebook and pen

These are top necessities for documenting your services. Because my job required documenting to Medi-Cal standards, I learned to write down the date, time, location, and a few brief topics on what the service targeted. A notebook is also a great spot to capture any necessary follow-ups, such as consults or phone calls.

Blank forms

These are critical when conducting in-field intakes. However, you may end up needing to get a signed release of information, to provide information on community-based resources, or just to give out a business card. Try to think of any administrative paper items that you find helpful to have available in your office. Then place a few of those items in a folder in your bag to have them handy.

Healthy snacks and a bottle of water

There may be days where you are stuck in the field for longer than you had anticipated. It’s also easy to fall into the habit of making a Starbucks or fast food run whenever you’re out of the office. Try to keep things like fruit, nuts, or granola bars with you to save time and money.

A change of clothes

This may sound like a weird one, but there are a few reasons for this. If you happen to work with kids or in areas where it’s easy to get dirty, it’s helpful to have a spare change of clothes in your bag or car if needed. A colleague of mine tends to dress casually in the field; however, he keeps a change of “nicer” clothes available in case he is called away to, say, a meeting at a school or with CPS.

A fully charged phone (or other device) and charger

Even in the field you may be required to do some administrative tasks. This may include calling to confirm appointments, notifying someone that you may be late, or calling your office. Crises also do happen, and it’s always a good idea to have the means to contact your colleagues or the authorities ASAP.

Intervention tools, such as games or workbooks

Depending on the type of session I was doing, I would do my best to have a variety of interventions available. For example, a deck of Uno cards can be great for rapport-building, developing social skills, or practicing frustration tolerance. A workbook that includes a variety of CBT interventions can also provide an opportunity for providing psychoeducation, giving the client choice on what they wish to work on, or assigning therapy homework.

Self-care treat

This could be anything to help you cope with social worker life in the field: a fidget toy, chocolate squares, a small book of affirmations, or anything to help you to stay grounded. This job is tough. Try to have a small something to help keep you sane. :)

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