Alameda Health System’s (AHS) clinical social workers execute on the organization’s mission to serve all by focusing on each patient’s unique health care needs. To help build a pipeline of future clinical social workers, care management education hosts the annual Clinical Social Worker Internship program for students pursuing their master’s degree in social work (MSW).
“The goal of this internship program is to assist students fulfill educational requirements for their MSW degree, and more importantly, prepare each student for a career as a master’s level social worker upon graduation,” said Clinical Social Worker, Susana Fong in Care Management Education. Fong leads the recruitment and curriculum development for the MSW internship program.
The internship is designed to educate students on the foundational and clinical aspects of social work. AHS has invested in this internship program for over three decades because of the value it places on helping all underserved communities in need. “It begins with AHS and the community we serve but the impact of the internship program is far greater, spreading to neighboring communities across the Bay Area,” said Fong.
Fong actively recruits students pursing their master’s degree in social work (MSW) at local universities for the AHS Clinical Social Workers internship program. Students are selected for various placement sites within AHS after a structured and competitive interviewing process.
Fong shared that each year the number of vacancies and the popularity of students’ requests or areas of interest can vary. She oversees the placement process to ensure a well-rounded experience for students. This year it was an extremely competitive process with Fong receiving 29 applications for only 10 vacancies.
Intern Janice Higuera who is pursuing her Master of Social Work degree at San Jose State University earned one of the few coveted spots this spring and has her sights set on being a clinical social worker when she graduates.
Raised in Daly City and now living in Richmond, Higuera who will graduate in May 2022 was drawn to a career in social work from her own life experiences and applied to the AHS intern program to gain experience specifically with a safety-net organization. “I am proud to be at AHS because it supports my desire to help underserved communities and ensure they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy.”
Higuera is currently working at the Highland inpatient unit in telemetry under the guidance of her field instructor, Medical Social Worker Lead, Sharon Abram who has more than 25 years of service. Abram also began as an intern and now Higuera is part of the rich history and AHS legacy in support of local MSW student interns to gain experience in medical settings.
“I’m learning every day and gaining invaluable experience by being in a clinical setting to help patients,” said Higuera. “This internship continues to exceed my expectations and I look forward to finishing my degree so I can pursue my career goal as a licensed clinical social worker,” she said.
As the next generation of social workers Fong said, “The current cohort shares a collective passion and purpose that’s needed to make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable.”
Fong shared that while there is not a guarantee that AHS can place all MSW interns upon graduation, their experience at AHS will prepare them well for a bright future.
March is National Social Worker Awareness month, a perfect opportunity to recognize our current and future social workers’ contributions in serving our most vulnerable patients.