Professional Standards and Guidelines for Practice: Documentation 

Social work is collaborative by its very nature, and it depends upon effective communication to ensure the best outcomes for the people and communities we practice with. This applies across every level of social work – micro, mezzo, macro – and in both clinical and community settings. When we document our interactions with service users, we are ensuring that the other members of their care team can join us in ensuring that their needs are met.  

Documentation is also a way of showing respect for those we serve, as well as our colleagues and the organizations that employ us. It reflects our commitment to our code of ethics and its professional standards.  

Our documentation does not belong to us, but rather becomes a permanent part of a service user’s file or record. At some point in our career, we may even find ourselves subpoenaed to verify information we recorded in our documentation. The notes that we jot down in the moment can carry a weight that we may sometimes forget; it is because of this that documentation guidelines are so important. 

However, sometimes it can be challenging to know what to document, in situations where we might have strong feelings, perhaps because the incident that we are documenting was traumatic or complex. In such situations, it can be helpful to receive supervision or guidance. Sometimes, without this type of support, our documentation of events can inadvertently become a method we use to process our own feelings, which can lead to possible harm to those we are called to serve. 

Our professional standards and ethics committee has therefore put together comprehensive documentation guidelines to support our members in documenting their activities, and in their practice. 

The professional standards and ethics committee has several other practice support resources in development, based on feedback from members and analysis of past complaints received by the College. If you are interested in joining this effort, please contact nsiritsky@nscsw.org to volunteer in the new year. 

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