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Friday, 19 April 2013

Worrying about communication...

Next Monday I start on the next big adventure of my university degree - my three day Social Work student placement. I've bought clothes, I've mapped the route and worked out the right bus number... I've even decided which bag I'm going to take (don't laugh... I like to be organised!).

But while my fellow students are busy worrying about Systems Theory, the importance of attachment and how to fill out a CAF form I have a slightly bigger concern.

Sure all those things are very important and I'm stressing about them as well, but for me it all boils down to communication.

I am, at times, a ridiculously independent person and this is occasionally my downfall... Although I'll have an interpreter with me on placement I feel strongly about the need to communicate for myself.

Through numerous discussions and mock-up Social Work interviews what I've discovered is that it's very difficult to build the same relationship with a service user when everything they say, all the little details, the private stuff, the emotion is being passed back and translated through an interpreter.
There are numerous problems I've encountered so far....
  • where to look? To me as a Social Work student it seems vital to maintain some sort of open communication through eye contact with a service user.... Should I watch them while they speak and then turn to the interpreter for clarification of things I've missed? Or should I simply watch the interpreter and not have that same level of passive understanding... 
  • confidentiality and cultural differences... This is one that I've had big problems with and Ive definitely learned from my mistakes so far. Many people may see what they say to a Social Worker as confidential just as they would their GP. But throw an interpreter into the mix and many people become worried and stressed about confidentiality... This seems to be particularly problematic as my (amazing!!) interpreter is Asian - this sounds random I know - but some Asian families may feel uncomfortable with his presence as they may feel the interpreter will "feedback" to the community. 
In terms of confidentiality I think the most important thing is to remember that although I, and other deafies, may be used to working with an interpreter and are therefore aware of the confidentiality agreements (strict ones!!) they agree to many people will have no experience of interpreting and will not know this. It's important to reassure them early on of this.

Communication affects other areas than working with service users...

I'm not particularly concerned about Team Meetings or Inter-professional meetings etc as having an interpreter for these will solve any difficulties - although I do wonder how I'll ever get a word in edgeways when I become a qualified Social Worker...

What bothers me though is our university portfolio... You see this is made up/completed by us writing detailed answers to questions that we must ask the Social Workers we are shadowing throughout the placement...  This is another of those independence things. Ideally in a 1:1 situation I'd like to able to demonstrate my knowledge and get my feelings across, as well as asking the questions I need to get answers to. But what if I misunderstand? And what if... (this is my biggest fear) the social worker I'm shadowing has a strong accent and I really can't understand a word they say... How awkward could that make my week? Sorry... I can lipread that person, but not you cos... well... I don't understand your accent.

I guess the only other thing worrying me is general deaf awareness... I hope my Social Work team will be clued up enough to realise that I'm not going to be answering any phones unless they're text phones and that if I don't reply I'm not ignoring anyone I genuinely haven't heard.
I'd hope they would know these things... but from past experience, well, you'd be amazed.

Anyways, I'll be sure to write about placement and how it went next week!! But until then if any deaf social workers out there want to reassure me please get in touch!! Or if anyone in general has any tips...

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