interruption of services social work examNearing the end of the first part of the NASW Code of Ethics, we get to 1.15, Interruption of Services. The section is quick and simple:

Social workers should make reasonable efforts to ensure continuity of services in the event that services are interrupted by factors such as unavailability, relocation, illness, disability, or death.

A question based upon this section of the exam might go something like this:

A social worker in a group practice dies suddenly. Another member of the group practice can access the deceased social worker's client records and begin contacting clients only if:

A) The deceased social worker has given the colleague access to her filing system and client contact information.

B) The deceased social worker has has made the colleague a designee.

C) The deceased social worker has set aside money for the colleague to handle her affairs in the event of death.

D) The deceased social worker's clients have given written permission.

Social workers preparing for the exam tend to be on the younger side and may not actively be contemplating what happens to their clients after they die. Get licensed is what's happening--first things first! But ethical social workers are expected to "make reasonable efforts" to ensure continuity of services in the event of death (not just in the event of a much-needed vacation). Toward this end, social workers can create a professional will spelling out the the who, what, and how of client care after they've died. Ideally, this includes the naming of a designee who is informed about how to access client records and for whom money has been set aside to pay for all the effort. Before a designee can do anything, however, clients need to have signed a consent giving permission for a designee to handle matters when a therapist dies.  If you've got a professional will, that consent becomes part of standard client paperwork. The best answer is...D!

For additional reading about professional wills, take a look at this Eye on Ethics column:

For additional questions about continuity of care and much more, sign up for SWTP's full-length practice tests.

December 8, 2015
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