Timing and the Social Work Exam

Leticia Chamorro (2010). Flickr. License: Creative Commons.

Next Exam Tip: (25+35) – (8^2/5) = ?

What does a random math equation have to do with the social work exam? Well, if you remember the order of operations PEMDAS (Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally), quite a lot. To properly solve an equation, you have to solve the parenthetical statement(s) first, followed by the exponents, then multiplication, division, addition, and finally, subtraction.

While social work isn’t quite as mathematical (I had a mentor once call it “science and art”), you’ll also want to keep in mind that good social work uses time as a component of intervention.

You wouldn’t recommend an intervention without meeting the client, right? Before you can do anything, you have to engage (connect/build rapport), assess (gather information), contract (agree on goals/roles), intervene (“do the thing”), evaluate (see if “the thing” works) and terminate (summarize and end).

During the last blog post, we looked at how important it was to engage the person first before any meaningful intervention can occur. It works the same in real life—connection precedes growth or change.

Let’s look at the following question (based on a prior review question):

A social worker is making a home visit with a parent and their three-year-old child recently discharged from the hospital for chickenpox to investigate a possible case of medical neglect. During the visit, the social worker notices that the parent isn’t actively engaging with the child and has poor contact with her. What should the social worker do FIRST?

A. Recommend that the child is re-hospitalized to extend care
B. Recommend that the child is re-assigned to next of kin
C. Explore parent’s reaction to the child’s illness
D. Refer parent to parenting skills group

The answer for this question would be C, since we want to engage and assess the situation before deciding on an appropriate intervention. Education alone doesn’t help (we don’t know whether it’s a parenting issue, cultural issue, or a medical education issue), re-hospitalizing would be inappropriate, and re-assignment would be inappropriate without a full safety assessment.

Takeaway tip: Time is a component of intervention. If stuck on a question, think about the timing of the situation.


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