Rural Social Work Practice


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Lastly, rural communities, generally speaking, have less access to social services and have limited resources. As stated above, there are many seeminly simple and essential services that we are privileged to in urban communities such as hospitals and clinics that those in rural communities do not have access to. With that being said, all of the above factors pose special challeneges for a social worker or helping professional working in rural communities.

Urban social work can be described as being composed in a formalized setting usually one on one or in group sessions. Confidentially is kept and not usually an issue due to the larger population of the area and there are various providers and specified clinicians that can focus in on problem areas verse the rural setting that one provider must handle all people and settings. Services in Urban areas also tend to cost less which has a lot to with the availability to multiple clinicians.

Rural social work focuses on a smaller population, usually in a geographical location that is not convenient to other major services or heavily populated areas. A clinician in a rural setting has to be able to be sensitive and understand the particular cultures and needs of the rural setting and be able to adapt to meet the needs of their clientele. Some of the challenges of rural social workers are that the social workers have to work with little to no support from other medical professionals and sometimes from the community as well.

Some communities would prefer a community based behavioral health system that allows elders, spiritual advisors and other long term residents of the community to be involved in the social workers aspect.

Unit 1: What is Rural Social Work? | Rural Social Work

Working in a rural community one is faced with the challenge of being a provider and also being part of the community as a member. Your patients have to learn to trust and respect you, all while keeping the proper distance to maintain the professional standard. Five characteristics that differentiate between an urban community and a rural community are: 1. Geography: Includes the physical location of the community and pattern of settlement, remoteness of the community and its landscape and how travel happens within that community 2.

Demographics: Include population that lives within the community. Ethnicity and diversity of a community are characteristics of its population along with age and family patterns. Economy: Changes within economics have impact within community; it has social political and material repercussions in rural settlements.

Economy impacts employment and population numbers within rural communities. Community: Not all communities are single communities; there may be several groups within one community. A sense of identity that is bound together population by association, shared relationships or common interests.

How is rural social work different from urban social work? Rural social work practices can be considered one or more of the characteristics listed it also requires being more culturally aware than urban practice would. Social Workers would need to understand that way the rural community functions and how the population functions within that community.

Confidentiality of clients is better kept within an urban community where as within a rural community the chances of knowing clients are higher. Getting the services that are required for a client may mean traveling miles due to the location of the community.


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Three Challenges of Rural Practice: 1. Getting the clients the help and services that are needed. Rural community locations can making getting the assistance that clients need extremely difficult. The further rural communities are from urban communities the more the amounts of services provided are limited.

Separating personal life from that of a professional one.

Working within a rural community means there is a larger possibility of interactions with people you work with. Giving a feeling of being on the job twenty four seven, leading to burn out and little self-care. Being culturally aware, rural communities within Alaska are for the majority Native Alaskan communities. They may have cultural traditional that we may not understand or recognize.

Their way of doing things may be different from what we think we know, by becoming culturally aware we can better understand the traditions of a rural community and better understand the needs the community may have. Five things that differentiate rural from urban are the characteristics of lower population, isolation from other communities, a sense of security since nearly everyone knows one another, nearness to wilderness areas, and a lack of services compared to what is offered in urban areas.

Rural social work practice is different from an urban practice because you have to have a good general knowledge of alot of areas while in an urban setting you are expected to specialize and refer people out to other specialists. There are ways to deal with distances such as telebehavioral health services where a client and village based provider may be video conferencing with a doctor or psychiatrist hundreds of miles away to deal with issues such as medicatin management and prescriptions.

There are many characteristics that differentiate a rural area from an urban area. Rural areas are typically smaller in size in regards to population that urban areas. There are usually less community resources and activities in a rural area, less access to medical care, higher education, entertainment, etc.

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Rural areas are classifies as rural sometimes due to their distance from larger metropolitan areas or their inaccessibility due to their location geographical obstacles. Rural areas tend to have a higher cost of living than urban areas, especially in Alaska. Rural communities also tend to be more intimate, wit a greater likelihood that people are going to know your private business. Rural social work is different from urban social work in many ways. One of the main ways is that rural social workers do not have as much access to resources as urban social workers do.

As a rural social worker it is much more likely that you will be faced with a conflict of interest, i. Another aspect unique to rural social work is that the clientele that you might encounter is probably less culturally diverse than you would find in an urban area, for example in Fairbanks you probably encounter a diverse mixture of clientele, while in Savoonga a rural community, the population is almost entirely made up of American Indians and Native Alaskans.

Rural areas experience higher rates of unemployment and continual unemployment.

Government, health, and social services are based on urban models that fail to adapt to rural needs or problems. Rural areas have more landmass that creates difficulties in distance and time of travel. The absence of public transportation in rural areas halts clients from reaching out to different social services. Recruitment and retention issues are in part developed mainly from urban roots that pay little attention to rural problems.

How rural social work practice is different from urban practice? People in rural areas experience lower income levels, higher unemployment, and poverty rates than people in urban areas. However, public assistance utilization rates are lower because it lacks access to program information that have a stigma to public assistance in rural areas. Children in rural areas who are born poor are more likely than urban children to maintain in poverty during their life time.

Moreover, rural children in female households are at greater risk of persistent poverty. Identify 3 challenges unique to rural practice 1. Small areas cause confidentially complications that involve locality- based community development that maintain a professional distance from the community. Residential rural areas can be judgmental towards clients and services that may reflect cultures and lifestyle differences from community norms. Most social workers receive little training in rural social problems in which creates a major barrier to develop the professional social work labor force that is needed to address the unique problems of rural areas.

Social work in rural Alaska

In looking at rural social work and urban there are many similarities and differences. You can see the same people you work with in the grocery store or on the street and they may want to discuss their case or something going on with them. Keeping that personal and professional relationship seperate is hard. Smaller communities may not have all the necessary programs to help families.

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What are the Unique Differences Between Urban and Rural Social Work Practice?

In my community we did not have foster care homes for children a few years ago and they would be sent to Denver for foster care. This made it hard on the children and the families tring to work things out. Another difference is that smaller communities tend to have a more sense of community. You can talk to your council person in person pretty much whenever you see them.

If a change is wanted or needed it can be easier to get that message out. Making sure that someone who is seeking help feels like they can have your confidence and their situation will not be known by everyone in town. This can be hard because more than likely someone could drive by seeinga girl going to the health department and report back to parents. In turn if the parents know you work their and they see you they could ask what their daughter was doing their.

This can be hard and if you are friends with the parents that can be even harder. In looking at how rural social work is different from urban I think the the points I discussed before can apply to this area but there are other issues that could be hard. Culture shock can happen in a rural community. You come to accept that prices are higher in the grocery store and that you will see the same people all the time.

It requires more searching for programs and grant writing to get those. Smaller communities have less tax dollars usually and programs are chosen by what is shown to work. If you want to introduce a new program that you know works you have to pursue that and show people it works.

Rural Social Work

Another difference would be case load smaller communites means smaller case loads. Three challenges to rural social work. People know who you are in the community. They know who works for child services and they may not like that. I know here that is hard, judgement on what you do and the misconception of splitting up families can follow you in the community. Funding resources within the community and making sure the ones that are available are working.

Realizing that within the community there are other communities. Here we hispanic communities and even those are broken down into two different communities with different cultures. You have to realize that not every rural community is made up of the same group of people. Five differences between rural and urban social work are: Location — although the definition of rural has many possible definitions, one of them is that rural is anything not urban.

Demographics — Rural communities are less populated although rural communities may vary in population from a few hundred to several thousand or more. Urban communities are much more diverse with smaller communities within larger communities and the availability of support from these groups is greater. Rural populations are often below the national average salary, may predominantly represent a single ethnicity or culture whereas urban settings may offer more employment opportunities and also provide a niche for particular ethnic groups and cultures.

Transportation — there is often little or no public transportation in rural communities causing members of the community to rely on themselves, others, or private transportation in order to travel. This is often expensive and prohibitive to accessing social services and other assets available in urban communities.

Urban communities often have public transportation services or even local services that can easily be reached on foot. Lack of Social Services — Even with the few social services that may be available, those services have fewer resources from which to draw in order to offer assistance to those in need. Obviously urban settings provide an array of social service offerings, both private and public. There are many more resources from which social workers can draw in order to provide assistance to meet the needs of those with whom they work.

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Volume Keith Brownlee. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. John R. Esther Doucette. Nicole Hotson. Glenn Halverson. Cite Citation. Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract Recent advances in communication technologies have the capacity for addressing many of the challenges identified with rural and remote social work practice, such as scarcity of professional resources, professional isolation and limited access to supervision and professional development. Issue Section:. You do not currently have access to this article.

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Rural Social Work Practice
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