Applying the Canadian Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics in uniquely-situated northern geographical locations: are there factors in practice environments that impact adherence to the 2005 code?
Wilson Marques, Louise
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The purpose of this study was to explore social work practitioner familiarity with and interpretation of the 2005 Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) Code of Ethics (“Code”) to determine whether specific sections of the existing Code enable social work practitioners to deliver ethical service in uniquely-situated geographical locations in northern Manitoba. A qualitative research style with exploratory methodology was employed in this study. In-person interviews were conducted with six social workers who have practiced in a northern Manitoba setting for at least three years post- graduation. Once given the opportunity to read and interpret the 2005 Code, five of six respondents reported that the intent of the Code is reflective of their practice, an apparent contradiction between how they described their understanding of the intent of the Code versus their practice realities. All reported that dual roles and potential conflicts of interest are very difficult to avoid when practicing social work in the North. Other key findings indicate that the study participants believe that social workers in the North: are not familiar with the 2005 Code; have a lack of education, knowledge, discussion and accessibility in this Code, and find there is a lack of application of this Code in practice environments. The emergence of the Manitoba College of Social Workers (MCSW), through legislation, will require that all practicing social workers adhere to the 2005 Code of Ethics. All six participants reported factors in northern, rural, remote and isolated environments that affect his/her ability to adhere to the 2005 Code. When social workers are required to register to use the title of Social Worker, the MCSW will be in a position to recognize the environmental factors of practicing in northern, rural, remote and isolated environments. MCSW may choose to consider that, where social workers are required to adhere to the 2005 Code, it may not be feasible in northern, rural, remote and isolated practice areas due to specific factors that have been identified throughout this study. In future studies, consideration and flexibility on behalf of the Psychology/Sociology Research Ethics Board (PSREB) may be necessary in order to ensure that research subjects are protected versus the need to understand, through research, the realities of social work practice. Secondly, researchers interested in expanding or replicating the findings of this study may choose to consider the disclosure and provision of the interview questions prior to the actual interviews. Additionally, future research to review ethical practice in the social work profession would facilitate a broader understanding of whether all social workers practice under existing requirements set out in current MIRSW by-laws and, in the future, provincial legislation that is applicable to every social worker in Manitoba. This study was limited to six participants. Broader research to more fully investigate the practical realities of applying the 2005 Code in northern environments could inform how the new legislation is implemented.