case western reserve university



Partnership with MSASS, Toronto, Nyu and Azusa Pacific


A new simulation exercise for social work students—similar to one used by medical students learning how to diagnose health conditions of their patients—has been developed by the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in partnership with researchers at Azusa Pacific College, New York University and the University of Toronto.

Nicole Stewart, a graduate student at MSASS, recently sat before a video camera in a clinic at MSASS. Wallace Gingerich, Case associate dean for Academic Affairs at MSASS, Marion Bogo, professor of social work at the University of Toronto, and Yuhwa Eva Lu, NYU associate professor of social work, watched through a one-way window as Stewart interviewed Mary Rawlings, chair of Azusa Pacific College’s department of social work, who played the role of a mother whose teenage son was having trouble in school.

Much like a practicing social worker who may have little information at an initial meeting with new client, Stewart had three paragraphs of information about the situation that entailed failing grades, a death in the family and newly immigrated family to this country.

The new social work exercise gave Stewart 15 minutes to connect with her client and build a rapport in an effort to find out what might be the environmental factors that contribute to the family’s problems. Stewart then suggested some potential strategies and services.

After the session ended, Bogo questioned Stewart about her client interaction skills to help Stewart perfect her skills as a social worker.

While it is only a simulation, the exercise links classroom information with practical experience, according to Gingerich.

The role playing that Stewart and other MSASS students did in the pilot testing of the simulated experiences in the Social Work Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE) are similar to exercises students in medical school practice to perfect their diagnosing skills within minutes when first meeting a new patient and hearing about their symptoms.

The new Social Work OSCE being piloted will become an integral part of the new Abilities-Based Learning Environment (ABLE) curriculum for MSASS.

“Students enjoy practicing the skills they learn in class,” Gingerich said.

While medical schools bring in character actors to play the roles of the sick patients, Gingerich envisions having social work students play the roles of both the client and interviewer.

For example, he explained that a student can be assigned the role of a client with a bi-polar disorder. That student would have to learn about illness, then act out what it would be like to have the mental illness and exhibit the symptoms during their interview. The interviewer would learn how to ask questions and elicit the attention of a client who may exhibit a wide range of behaviors that complicate the interview process.

“Students will see the links between what they are learning and doing,” said Gingerich.

MSASS student also will be able to take it into the workplace. While in graduate classes at MSASS, all students have field placements with community organizations each year.

Eventually Gingerich also sees the simulation exercise incorporated into simulated training that will take place in the new Mt. Sinai Center for Medical Simulation, supported by a $10-million gift from the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation, as part of the emergency room training in which social workers are enlisted for support services.

The simulated experiential learning at MSASS will augment simulation learning around campus that is now taking place in the medical, dental and nursing schools at Case.


About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work.