Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
Curtis Jones, Social Services director at East Mississippi State Hospital (EMSH), was one of 24 field instructors this semester for Mississippi State University-Meridian's Social Work program. MSU-Meridian students have been doing field work at East Mississippi for at least 20 years, the last nine years under Jones who has supervised, on average, three students a year. Thursday was Jones last day at EMSH.
Each spring, social work students complete 450 hours of field placement in their last semester before graduation. They also meet bi-weekly at the university and incorporate their classwork and assignments at the agencies where they are completing their field practicum. Field placement is comparable to student internships for 'would-be' educators, and is an integral part of the social work program.
As a field instructor, Jones placed the students on an assigned unit. The interns start out by going through a two-week orientation, just as if they were new employees of EMSH.
"As part of this orientation," said Jones, "the students take MANDT training which teaches respect and dignity when working with individuals in one's care as well as fellow employees. We train them how to take care of themselves and keep safe in all situations. They also have HIPAA training.
"Once they go through the initial orientation, their unit orientation begins with their social workers assigning specific tasks they will perform during their field placement."
According to Jones, the social workers the students are assigned to are known as task coordinators and they are responsible for assigning the actual tasks the students will perform during their field placement.
"Although each agency that places our students operates differently," said Angela Savage, MSW,LMSW and instructor and director of field education at MSU-Meridian, " they all help socialize our social work students into the profession, enhance students' knowledge of the agency and community's resources, and coordinate learning through appropriate case assignment and peer-group interaction."
For Jones the opportunity to impact students before they get into the field is what he has loved most about his years as a field instructor.
"The students are more receptive and it is refreshing to see their eagerness and motivation and the way they are objective about everything," Jones said. "When co-workers have been in the field for a while they often can become part of the system. These students have a different outlook. I often ask them for feedback and it is interesting that they always provide information that enables us to change the way we do things."
"The dedication field instructors, like Mr. Jones, give to our students is phenomenal," added Savage. "I've enjoyed working with him. He has great field knowledge when it comes to curriculum, practice, and placement. He knows it. He lives it. He breathes it. He is the epitome of a social worker."
Although only three students a year actually do their field placement at EMSH, all social work students at MSU-Meridian partner with EMSH and the Lauderdale County Mental Health Association each year to participate in Operation Reindeer, which provides Christmas presents to patients at the hospital who have no family of their own.
The students purchase the gifts, wrap them, and deliver them to the hospital. Under Jones' supervision, the gifts are dispersed on all of the units.
Sharing this thoughts as he closes this chapter of his career, not only as a field instructor for MSU-Meridian's social work program, but his 22 year tenure with East Mississippi State Hospital, Jones says, "If you come into this field with an open mind and the idea that you are going to help someone - you will. Social work is a wide open field and a social worker plays multiple roles - counselor, mentor, teacher - and this gives you an opportunity to impact a person from several different perspectives. No doubt about it - you will help someone and perhaps change a life."