In reflection on my experience in the GEM program, I have gained clarity on what sorts of competencies geriatric social workers need, as well as in what areas social workers and students tend to feel most strong in their practice. For example, many social workers feel strong in the competency domains of values and ethics, as well as assessment. On the other hand, they tend to feel less confident in their knowledge of ageing services, programs and policies and how to intervene in those areas. This awareness and familiarity with the Hartford PPP competency scale will be a great asset to me in my future work with the Gero-Ed Center when I am at the University of Washington.
Regarding my specific gains in competencies, I feel that I learned the most and was most likely to gain specific geriatric competencies at the monthly seminars. I really appreciated learning from the experiences of other students about the work they did and what types of services their organization provides. It provided me with a sense of how the network of aging professionals work together in Boston. Nonetheless, since I am a macro student and am not working directly with older adults or applying macro techniques with any older adults, I found opportunities to develop skills specific to geriatric practice limited. Although I worked on the evaluations of social workers’ perceptions of their geriatric competencies and helped to write a grant that would increase geriatric competencies of students at BUSSW in the future, this did not shed light on the specifics of how geriatric practice was different than other types of social work practice. This only shed light on how to increase competencies.
Future GEM students at IGSW could develop specific geriatric competencies in any of the following ways. They would benefit from participating in the development of curriculum for the online courses, since they would be interacting with literature written by experts in the field that provides up to date knowledge on best practices. They also could develop geriatric macro practice skills by initiating a program at IGSW which brought older adults into the organization to volunteer their services in some capacity. Students might explore and better understand ageism by developing and conducting workshops on ageism within an organization dedicated to serving older adults. They also would benefit from attending and observing meetings with other aging professionals in the city (coalitions, meetings with contracting organizations such as EOEA,e tc). I learned a lot in my time at IGSW and implementing projects such as those I have suggested above will ensure that future GEM students placed at IGSW specifically develop their competencies in geriatric social work.