code of ethics competence Next up on our selective tour of the NASW Code of Ethics, section 1.04:


(a) Social workers should provide services and represent themselves as competent only within the boundaries of their education, training, license, certification, consultation received, supervised experience, or other relevant professional experience.

(b) Social workers should provide services in substantive areas or use intervention techniques or approaches that are new to them only after engaging in appropriate study, training, consultation, and supervision from people who are competent in those interventions or techniques.

(c) When generally recognized standards do not exist with respect to an emerging area of practice, social workers should exercise careful judgment and take responsible steps (including appropriate education, research, training, consultation, and supervision) to ensure the competence of their work and to protect clients from harm.

Will this be on the exam? It's almost guaranteed. Think of it this way: one of the examiners' main missions is to protect the public by making sure licensed social workers don't do harm. How do they do that? Screen for understanding up scope of practice issues.

A typical question in this area will offer a number of excellent-sounding interventions for a client presenting with a social worky issue--one that could be rooted in a medical problem. Remember that most presenting issues that social workers see may have an underlying medical cause. If the client in the vignette hasn't already seen a physician, the answer is to send them to one for a rule-out.  That's the FIRST or BEST answer the vast majority of the time for an item like that.

Other rules of thumb for passing the licensing exam and for being an upstanding social worker: Don't give medical advice. Refer out or seek supervision when not expert in a specific issue or modality. Know your limits, and know the limits of your license. Pass the exam!

For social work test questions on this topic and many, many others, try our full-length practice exams.

November 1, 2013
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