The National Practice Standards of the Australian Association of Social Work: Supervision”, AASW, (1993) document states that “the primary purpose of professional supervision is to facilitate competent, independent practice”. It refers to three equally important components in supervision being administration, education and support.
Kadushin and Harkness (2002), observed that “the ultimate long term objective of social work supervision is to provide efficient and effective services to clients. In the short term, the objective of administrative supervision is to provide frontline social workers with a context that permits them to do their job effectively. “
Peer supervision in virtual teams refers to a team or group whose members work together to explore and reflect their own and each others professional experiences by supporting, analysing, planning and hypothetically testing the changes in their professional &/or personal life of each other through telecommunication
Virtual teams: a collection of individuals who are geographically &/or organisationally or otherwise dispersed and who collaborate via communication and information technologies in order to accomplish a specific goal. Virtual teams have a common goal and rely on technology (Zigurs, 2003)
Participants have been recruited through contacts with two North Queensland organisations and a professional body, the AASW North Queensland and Queensland Branches. An email was forwarded to these contacts who forwarded it in turn to their employees and members, inviting interested social workers to participate in the peer supervision group trials.
Re a 2 nd session of a group: “Session very informative, interesting and stimulating. Excellent quality of information from the 3 SW presenting their Good News Stories which were counselling, case management and community development. Good trust and openness in the group.”
“ Of most benefit was the high quality of information from all 3 Good News presentations. Lots of process was discussed and social work assessment, intervention and advocacy were clearly demonstrated.
..Changes in the lives of the clients was positive and significant to them. SW theory was being put into the workers practices. Great teaching and learning for me from listening to them. I felt I gained a richness of ideas. I also realised how helpful SW supervision is in overcoming the professional isolation of being a sole worker in multi-disciplinary teams. I am reminded of the need for reflective practice”
Feedback from Focus Groups – June and July 2007
“ The level of trust developed was such that we could expose our vulnerabilities and yet be safe”
“ Having the peer supervision was de-stressing” “Good support, reflecting with other people encouraged a time of reflection” (on practice)
Advantages of peer supervision include that you get a “slice of peoples’ experience. If limited to one supervisor, you are limited to their experience. Greater exchange from more careers – more opportunities”
“ Took a commitment. Sometimes not prepared – difference in quality if not prepared.”
“ I experience supervision one to one and meet with a group of social workers in a group regularly. This peer supervision is on a par with those experiences, but different. It is similar in terms of impact, however, I have put less time into the peer supervision”
Participants travelling across large geographic areas affecting availability
Turnover of rural staff – changing jobs, resignations – no longer able to participate
Two of the four groups folded after the first few months (reasons included – too busy to continue involvement; under-staffed – can’t commit to extra activities; un-structured format not meeting needs; resignations; job changes). Fifth group struggled with numbers, availability to meet.