Aug. 1, 2018

Philanthropy fuels innovative new simulation program in Faculty of Social Work

Program aims to elevate knowledge and empathy in social workers engaging with vulnerable children

While simulation training has long been standard practice in professions such as medicine and nursing, it’s increasingly valued as an effective method of teaching and measuring critical social work skills, without the risk of harm to client groups.  

A philanthropic gift to the University of Calgary’s Energize campaign will create a new simulation training program in the Faculty of Social Work — one of only a few such programs in Canada.

Led by the Wood’s Homes Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health, Dr. Angelique Jenney, PhD, the simulation program will provide a “real” but safe environment for trainees in the area of children’s mental health to learn and practice. Building off important simulation work being done at the Cumming School of Medicine, social work students will interact with highly trained actors in scenarios often encountered by those in the field. This method enables students to build practice knowledge and skills in a safe setting, prior to using them in real-life situations.  

"Traditionally, social workers achieve such skill development through years of direct practice, with supervision from skilled clinicians within practicum and employment settings,” says Jenney. “The use of simulation allows in-the-moment coaching and evaluation for students to try new skills and to make mistakes in a safe learning environment. Developing the simulations in partnership with the clinical expertise of staff at Wood’s Homes further enriches the learning experience by bringing real practice-wisdom into the equation.”

The program, set to launch next fall in the newly redesigned MacKimmie Complex, is fueled by a gift from UCalgary alumni Eric Axford and his wife, Diane. Eric, BA’87, who has served as a board member for Wood’s Homes for nearly a decade, says he and Diane “have seen first-hand the amazing work of both of these incredible institutions — and we’re so excited to support the Energize campaign and help spark this new joint innovation.”

Dr. Jackie Sieppert, dean of the Faculty of Social Work, says the program will enrich safe, hands-on teaching and learning opportunities for students.

“With Angelique’s expert guidance, our faculty is poised to lead nationally and internationally in the area of simulation in social work education,” says Sieppert. “Students need opportunities to practise, make mistakes, learn, refine and develop deep, evidence-based competencies in their future work with children with mental health challenges.” That, he adds, “is how we will prepare graduates who have the knowledge, empathy and competencies to make a fundamental difference for those children and their families.”

About Energize: the Campaign for Eyes High

Energize: the Campaign for Eyes High is the University of Calgary’s most ambitious fundraising campaign to date. Funds raised through the campaign will support student experiences, research outcomes and community connections. Together we are fueling transformational change for the University of Calgary, our city, and beyond — inspiring discovery, creativity and innovation for generations to come. Formally launched in April 2016, the campaign is more than three-quarters to its overall goal of $1.3 billion.