Meet Jana Králová, Master of Social Work (MSW)

We sat down with Dr Jana Králová, to discuss the Master of Social Work Programme at Edinburgh Napier University, and how Social Workers make a difference, the challenges they face and the rewards they get working in this field.

Headshot of Master of Social Work Programme Leader, Dr Jana KralovaWhat does social work mean to you? 

Social Work to me, is not just a profession; social work is my way of life. I hold a fundamental belief that every human being is worthy. Worthy of a decent life, protection and worthy of chances to achieve their human potential to its fullest capacity, regardless of their origin or circumstances. 

Famously, Carl R. Rogers (1967, p. 283), refers to Unconditional Positive Regard, as:

“An atmosphere which simply demonstrates ‘I care’; not ‘I care for you if you behave thus and so.’”

Social work practitioners are faced daily with profound changes and challenges which require not only a solid professional skill set, relevant evidence and practice informed knowledge, but also, a certain amount of flexibility and imagination to respond effectively to situations arising. As we have seen in the recent past, some such situations are unpredictable and on an unprecedented scale. Thus, we aim to equip our graduates with skills, knowledge and practice learning which will enable them to effectively respond to changes and challenges of contemporary social work. 

How do social workers make a difference in people’s lives?

The main way of finding out what help people need is getting to know them really well. To know and understand what challenges they face, what their hopes and aspirations are, what they want for their lives, and what their strengths and skills are that we can build on. It’s about thinking together with people so they can make changes to their lives that will make a positive difference.

Sometimes being a social worker means making decisions around people’s lives, such as if they need protection from quite significant forms of harm to themselves or others. So that might mean admitting somebody to hospital against their wishes for example, or whether a child needs to be looked after by someone other than their parents. These decisions will have major implications for people’s lives on a long-term basis. But other times it can be supporting people, with really simple, practical help, like assisting someone to make a phone call, filling out forms, or financial help to help them through a difficult time. Often this necessitates making real connections with the other people in their lives, their friends and family, or other support people or community services. A social worker is a person who can put the pieces of the jigsaw together and see a person as a whole in the context of their environment and within the systemic structures. 

Social workers will work with some of the most marginalised, excluded and vulnerable people in our society. It is for this reason that it is crucial we follow The Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and Employers, which set out the behaviours and values expected of social service workers and their employers by Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) with which you must register upon commencing your studies. You may wish to explore the codes here.

Social Work

What have you found most rewarding during your social work training?

For me, the experiences from practice placements were invaluable. Working with people receiving services and carers provided me an opportunity to develop not only my professional identity as a social worker, but also gave me a range of learning opportunities. These have offered fertile ground for further development of my interpersonal and communication skills. My knowledge and application of assessment methods and appreciation of daily experiences of social work practice. No one day is the same in social work. You are challenged; intellectually, professionally, mentally as well as physically. Practice placements are apart from being extremely rewarding are also particularly demanding, which is why it is very important to carefully consider your personal circumstances and environment before embarking on this programme, so that you can achieve your potential to its fullest capacity. 

Why should prospective candidates join this new Social Work programme in ENU? 

One of the real strengths of our master's in social work programme is that in all of the classes we will be making connections between theoretical knowledge and practice. To integrate social work theory and practice we use the Simulation and Clinical Skills Centre comprising fantastic resources, with the real hospital wards and the SHELTER (Simulated Home Environment for Learning, Teaching and Research) – it really is like someone’s home. It’s a flexible space so we can change it to make it really welcoming or really unwelcoming, and we can practise knocking on somebody’s door, the door being answered - or not answered - and what you do next. Students can practise all sorts of difference scenarios for example, what it’s like to be welcomed into somebody’s living room, to be faced with all the sights and sounds and smells, what you do if they’ve left the television on and it’s loud, how you go about deciding whether to chat in the living room or the kitchen, how you can act respectfully in someone else’s home. 

I am proud to say that graduates of Edinburgh Napier University Master of Social Work Programme can respond to changes and challenges of contemporary social work.