Most professions have a professional association or body to which workers in that profession should belong for a variety of reasons. For social workers in the United States of America this association is known as the National Association of Social Workers. It is very unusual for social workers in our country to not belong to an association of some kind, and this is the most popular as well as the most prestigious one to be a member of.
What Is The National Association Of Social Workers (NASW)?
“The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is a professional organization of social workers in the United States”.
Most professions have an association to which its members can belong. The National Association of Social Workers (or NASW as it will be referred to throughout the rest of this article) has about 145,000 members at the moment, making it a fairly large body of social workers, globally speaking. Members of NASW as well as social workers in general can receive the following form the association:
- Up to date information
- Other resources
Members of the NASW are also eligible for a number of benefits, including:
- Malpractice insurance
- Members-only publications
- Discounts on other products and services
- Continuing education
NASW is a conglomerate of the American Association of Social Workers, the American Association of Psychiatric Social Workers, the American Association of Group Workers, the Association for the Study of Community Organization, the American Association of Medical Social Workers, the National Association of School Social Workers, and the Social Work Research Group.
Why Should I Join The National Association Of Social Workers?
There are a number of social workers out there who do not feel that it is necessary to join NASW, but the benefits that come with membership in this organization are many and varied. There does tend to be an application and membership fees involved, but these fees are small in comparison to the overall benefits that you are likely to receive. A social worker who belongs to NASW is in a far safer position than a social worker who does not, both in terms of overage in the case of a malpractice lawsuit as well as in terms of their future career as the association offers a number of opportunities for advancement. By presenting a united front social workers can make a real difference in this country. Belonging to NASW means that you will have access to more resources, including access to other professional social workers who may be able to provide you with essential information and assistance.
One of the primary reasons why a social worker should belong to NASW is that they will have access to excellent continuing education opportunities. Generally speaking these continuing education credits are requirements in order to maintain your licensure. Members of NASW will have access to these courses at all times. Courses are presented as:
- Online presentations
- Streaming webcasts
The courses offered by the association tend to cover topics such as:
- Mental health
- Eating disorders
- Post-traumatic stress
There are two compelling reasons for continuing education. One is that you need continuing education credits to remain a social worker. However the second reason is equally as important. Continuing education through a reliable source such as the NASW will mean that you will have the opportunity to take the initiative and improve your skills in your chosen profession, thereby boosting your resume and improving your level of confidence in your ability to help those that turn to you for assistance.
This association has a large number of members and this means that, as a member of this organization, there will be plenty of other social workers with whom you will have the opportunity to get in touch with. Networking is important in a profession like this where people need to rely on interdepartmental support from one another and the ability to know that there are many other professionals in the field who you can turn to for assistance in situations that are too much for a single social worker to handle. There are a number of mediums through which social workers who belong to NASW can stay in contact with one another as well as through which they can establish new contacts with other social workers across the country who they have not yet had the opportunity to meet. These mediums include:
- Conferences (these are usually face-to-face)
- Seminars (these are usually face-to-face)
- Message boards (these are usually found online)
- Forums (these are usually found online)
The NASW offers a wide range of benefits to members who become involved in malpractice lawsuits. These may arise whether or not you are a reliable and honest social worker, so you cannot assume that you will never require assistance. Malpractice suits can arise even in cases where you have done nothing wrong, and consequently you will need to prepare for these possibilities. The best way to ensure that you are covered, legally speaking, as a social worker is through the NASW as members can receive a variety of legal benefits, including the following:
- Discounts on liability insurance for professional protection
- Malpractice workshops
- Legal assistance when lawsuits occur
- The NASW Legal Defense Fund (providing financial assistance to members involved in legal matters)
To qualify for assistance from the NASW for legal matters you must be a member who:
- Is in good standing with the association
- Has a strong case
- Has completed an application
There are a number of credentials that you can receive through the NASW in your capacity as a social worker. These credentials bring with them advanced levels of prestige as well as an increase in employment opportunities. The areas that you could choose to specialize in through the NASW are the following:
- Clinical care
- Gerontology care
- Hospice care
- Palliative care
- Youth and family care
- Health care
- Case management
For each credential listed above there are a number of educational and other requirements that you will need to meet in order to be properly licensed in this area of social work. All the information regarding what you will be required to do can be found on the NASW website. Remember that in some cases there may be subtle differences in terms of the prerequisites that you have to meet depending on the state where you work and study, so be sure to find out what the specific requirements for your particular situation are.
The National Association Of Social Workers Code Of Ethics
Members of the NASW are expected to abide by a very strict ethical code. The main values of this code are:
- Social Justice
- Dignity and Worth of the Person
- Importance of Human Relationships
More specific information about the ethical responsibilities of the social worker can be found on the NASW website under the following headings:
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility to Clients
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility to Colleagues
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility in Practice Settings
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility as Professionals
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility to the Social Work Profession
- Social Worker’s Ethical Responsibility to the Broader Society
This ethical code is there to protect the clients of social workers, but it is also there to protect the social workers themselves by presenting them with a clear set of rules regarding how they can and cannot behave and what they can and cannot do in a social worker setting.
National Association Of Social Workers Foundation
This is a charitable subsidiary of NASW, known as NASWF and aims to achieve the following basic goals:
- One of the primary tasks of the NASW Foundation is to identify, develop and respond to social work policy and practice issues that may arise.
- In addition they are required to respond rapidly to social crises that may emerge.
- The Foundation is also required to support research based on practice so that the two factors (research and practice) are linked.
- To a certain degree the Foundation aims to promote social work and improve public perception of the profession.
- The Foundation is also tasked with the duty of creating advanced continuing education opportunities for social workers to take advantage of.
- Last but not least the Foundation is responsible for promoting the appropriate application of new technology to the practice of social work.
The National Association of Social Workers is an important aspect of a social worker’s career as there are a number of benefits to belonging to an organization such as this one. In many cases social workers will be reminded to become members of the National Association of Social Workers when leaving their social worker training program. The National Association of Social Workers also offers a number of advancement opportunities that social workers may otherwise not have access to.