Field Policies and Procedures

NASW Code of Ethics

All students and field instructors in the social work program have the responsibility to be familiar with the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. It is expected that all students, field instructors and faculty will abide by the code. A copy of the current code can be found on the NASW website. Discussion about ethical standards should be a stated activity of each student’s learning contract and incorporated into supervision sessions. Students are to learn the principles and responsibilities articulated in the code and be given opportunities to apply them at their field placements. Part of professional social work training includes commitment to the NASW Code of Ethics, which states in part that social works’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.

Liability insurance and field course fees

The University provides general professional liability insurance for all students who are officially registered for field education courses. Students pay for this coverage through course-related fees at the time of their course registration. Agencies/organizations must maintain adequate general liability and professional liability insurance as well. Students may purchase additional liability insurance as members of NASW; premiums are reasonable for considerable coverage.

The University and the School of Social Work assumes no responsibility or liability for injury that may be sustained during field placement. Students sign a liability statement in their field application, which is provided to the organization accepting the student. This statement indicates that students are not covered by workman’s compensation in the State of Michigan for any accident/injury that may occur during the field placement. The statement additionally states that health or other on-boarding costs incurred in preparation for or during the field placement are the responsibility of the student and the student’s health insurer. All students are encouraged to have personal health insurance while in their field placement.

In some organizations, students may be required to use their personally owned vehicle for transportation purposes. All students are required to have a valid driver’s license, indicate that they can operate a motor vehicle without restriction (unless indicated on the application), carry current vehicle insurance, and agree to comply with the laws of the State of Michigan.

In the event that a student is involved in an automobile accident while at their field placement, the student’s personal vehicle insurance is the first tier for a claim. The University insurance policy is secondary and subject to the terms of the coverage in the University’s contract. If a student is to utilize their personally owned vehicle for field placement activities (including the transportation of clients), it is the internship organization’s responsibility to inform the student of these expectations prior to acceptance of the placement and also to evaluate the student’s ability to perform the required tasks. Western Michigan University School of Social Work Field Manual, 2019-20 12 This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring that the student’s vehicle is in good, safe, working condition.

If involved in an accident or injury, please complete the WMU accident or injury report.

Background checks and drug testing 

Many organizations require students to complete a criminal background check which may involve a state or national-level clearance. Some organizations require a central registry check through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine if the student has ever been adjudicated in a civil court for abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult. Organizations may also require a student to take and pass a drug test. While Michigan has voted to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, it is the University’s position that marijuana is not conducive to a productive learning or work environment, remains illegal under federal law, and is prohibited on all WMU campuses. All on-boarding requirements may be conditions of acceptance or continuation for a field placement and can be requested at any time before or during the student internship. Some organizations may cover the cost of these requirements while others may expect the student to pay these costs. Western Michigan University does not cover the costs of internship on-boarding requirements. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure all on-boarding requirements are met prior to the start of the internship.

Mandated reporting and duty to warn

State and federal laws require the mandatory reporting of the suspected abuse or neglect of a child or vulnerable adult and also require a duty to warn in the event that a client is considered harmful to him/herself or others. It is expected that during placement, the student will have exposure to situations that involve mandatory reporting and duty to warn. Field instructors are responsible for educating all students with regard to these laws. Students should not be required to be the primary mandated reporter while functioning as an intern at an agency as this role is reserved for the organization-based Field Instructor. The Field Instructor is responsible for ensuring that all of the organization’s policies, regulations, laws, and ethical obligations are followed. The student should discuss any issues of suspected abuse/neglect and/or duty-to-warn with their Field Liaison and when appropriate, the Field Director/Coordinator.

Michigan Department of Health & Human Resources Mandated Reporters Guide

Accommodation for disabilities/special needs

Any student with a documented disability (e.g., physical, learning, psychiatric, vision, hearing, etc.) who needs to arrange reasonable accommodations must contact Disability Services for Students at (269) 387-2116 at the beginning of the semester.  A disability determination must be made by this office before any accommodations are provided by the classroom instructor. 


The School of Social Work, as part of the WMU College of Health and Human Services, is an inclusive community of learners that embraces, respects, and advocates for human diversity. The College has a sustained commitment to eliminating disparities in health care and other human services by using dynamic methods to infuse this perspective into curricula, clinical practice, and research. It is expected that students also demonstrate a respect for diversity, consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics, in their academic performance.

FERPA guidelines

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are eligible students.

HIPAA guidelines 

All social workers are required to adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, Public Law 104-191 (HIPAA) regulations regarding the privacy of client information outside of the agency setting. Confidentiality requirements must be strictly maintained when discussing or writing about clients in the classroom, in assignments, and/or in process recordings.

Student conduct

Students are responsible for making themselves aware of and understanding the policies and procedures in the Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs that pertain to academic honesty. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. 

Student Rights and Responsibilities

In the event that there is reason to believe academic dishonesty has taken place, a referral to the Office of Student Conduct will be made. The student will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). Should the student believe he/she is not responsible, the opportunity for a hearing will be made. The student should consult with their instructor of record if he/she is uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or exam.

Student Code of Conduct

The social work profession demands a commitment to professional responsibility and ethical behavior. Students must maintain professional behavior in accordance with the NASW Code of Ethics as well as the following professional standards. Failure to comply constitutes academic misbehavior under the Western Michigan University Code of Conduct and may result in a student’s dismissal from the program.

Integrity: Students must behave in an honest and trustworthy manner including representations in the initial field application, work at the placement, and any other representations made in field-related assignments.

Communication: Students must exercise professional judgment in all communications including those written, in person, or over the phone. Students must have the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

Dress: Students must dress professionally and in a manner appropriate for their placement site.

Confidentiality: Students must comply with all applicable standards for privacy and confidentiality in all communications related to their placement.

Attendance: Students must meet the attendance requirements of their placement. This includes arriving on time, working through the shift as scheduled, and ensuring their supervisor is aware of said schedule.

Performance: Students should actively participate in their internship experience. This includes adequate preparation for the placement, the following of directives from supervisor/s, and completion of responsibilities consistent with the placement requirements. Students must have the ability to discuss and process information in a satisfactory manner based on the demands of their placement. Students must be able to think critically, analyze and interpret objective and subjective data, and apply effective problem-solving skills. Students must be able to use the technology required at their placement including but not limited to the use of computers, phones, and agency databases.

Self-Awareness: Students must demonstrate the appropriate use of self-disclosure and exhibit knowledge of the ways in which personal experiences and values affect their practice.

Self-Regulation: Students must demonstrate emotional and behavioral regulation and must exhibit unimpaired judgment in decision-making.

Sexual harassment and assault

Western Michigan University is committed to an environment which encourages fair, humane, and beneficial treatment of all faculty, staff, and students. In accordance with that fundamental objective, the University has a continuing commitment to assure equal opportunity and to oppose discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, national origin, handicap, height, weight, or marital status.

Therefore, in that same perspective, sexual harassment will not be tolerated behavior at Western Michigan University. It is expected that each member of the University community will consider himself/herself responsible for the proper observance of this policy.


Western Michigan University, in accordance with the law, prohibits discrimination in the provision of all student instruction, activities, and programs. Discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability, height, weight, veteran status, family status, or marital status shall not be tolerated in the determination of eligibility, participation, or grading for any courses or program established for the benefit of students unless otherwise provided by law.
Students who have inquiries about the University’s Anti-Discrimination Policy or about anti-discrimination laws, including Title IX and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or who have complaints of prohibited discrimination, may file their inquiries and complaints with the Office of Institutional Equity, 1015 Trimpe Building (387-6316).

Time and Attendance

Attendance at the field placement is an indicator of professional behavior. Students are expected to respect the organization’s policies and procedures as if they were an employee. If a student will not be in field at the agreed upon schedule due to illness or unexpected barriers, the Field Instructor should be notified immediately. Field Instructors are encouraged to notify the Faculty Liaison if there are questions or concerns surrounding the attendance or overall participation of the student in the field placement.

Students may not begin their field placement until the beginning of the semester in which they are enrolled. Students should discuss their anticipated completion date with their supervisor and classroom instructor as soon as possible. This may not coincide with the completion of the academic semester in which case the student will receive an ‘incomplete’ until all field hours and responsibilities have been finished.

Meals, break times, and commuting to and from field placement are not counted toward hours logged in field.

The University has an established calendar of holidays and break periods. Students are not required to be in field placement during these periods but may continue their internship during semester or holiday breaks with the consent of their Field Instructor and Liaison. Students should discuss their planned semester break times with their Field Instructor as quickly as possible after the start of the internship.

WMU Calendars

Students should address scheduling with their potential Field Instructors as early as the interview process and should consider client and organizational needs. Official university holidays and breaks such as winter/spring break, legal holidays, as well as those officially observed by the organization are granted to the student. Inclement weather scheduling should be discussed with the Field Instructor taking note that significant variability in location will influence determinations. Students may not count holidays, snow/weather days, sick days, or other days they are not in field as field time. When applicable, students and their Field Instructor should negotiate a plan to make up field hours due to sick time, family illness, holidays or snow/weather days.


Addressing problems in the field

Problem prevention strategies:

Problem Prevention Strategies:

  1. Plan ahead.
  2. Make the Learning Contract reflect interests and needs.
  3. Review the Learning Contract/evaluation weekly, and during supervision.
  4. Maintain a frequent and regular supervision schedule between the Field Instructor and student of no less than 1 hour/week.
  5. Discuss any life events which may impact the schedule or tasks of Field collaboratively between the student, Liaison, and Field Instructor early in the semester/session and/or at the time an unexpected event occurs.
  6. Document with the Office of Student Disability any disabilities requiring attention for the Field Instructor and Field Liaison at the beginning of the semester.
  7. Arrange schedules verbally and in writing between the student and Field Instructor at the beginning of the semester.
  8. Utilize an agenda for each supervisory meeting and seek collaborative input from the Field Instructor regularly and as needed.
  9. Read all communications carefully and maintain records of all such communications.
  10. Confirm the understanding of directions, instructions, and requirements (e.g., organization policies, guidelines, expectations, requirements) with Field Instructors, Field Liaisons and, if necessary, with the Field Coordinator. Ask for assistance as needed.
  11. Periodically review the Field course syllabi during supervision.

Procedures for students to follow if problems arise 

A placement break for any reason is a challenging situation and should be addressed as such. Consistent, clear communication with all involved is of utmost importance. In the event that issues arise during the internship:

  • The student and Field Instructor should discuss concerns face to face and should also maintain written documentation about the identified concerns, goals for change, objectives to reach the desired change/s, and time frames for the expected outcome/s. The student and Field Instructor may obtain advice from the Faculty Liaison, as needed, early in the concern-identification process. Corrective action plans to remediate the situation should be developed, signed, and dated by all parties and subsequently added to IPT.
  • If problems persist, the student or Field Instructor may request a problem-solving meeting to include the student, Field Instructor, and Field Liaison.
  • If the field placement ends prematurely due to concerns about the student’s performance, the student, PRC Committee Chair, Academic Advisor, Faculty Liaison, Field Director/Coordinator, and Field Instructor, will participate in a Professional Review Committee (PRC) meeting. Additional attendees at the PRC may include the Director/Associate Director of the School of Social Work, the Field Instructor, and a silent support person of student choice. Following the PRC, recommendations are made by the PRC Committee to the Director or his/her designee. Recommendations to the Director of the School of Social Work may include dismissal from the program.

Students who complete the requirements of their PRC and need to be placed in a second placement organization may need to complete up to 50 additional hours of time at the new organization to allow for training and orientation and to ensure sufficient time to learn the skills and practice available at this second site.

The Field Office is available to offer support, insight, structure, and direction for the student, Field Instructor, Field Liaison, or even the organization itself at any point during the internship.