First Army Social Worker training class graduates
September 25, 2009
Charmain Z. Brackett
While she wasn't one of those receiving degrees at a recent graduation, Col. Yvonne Tucker-Harris was probably the most excited of those attending the ceremony.
"It was like the birth of an idea. I compared this to getting ready to plant seeds," said Tucker-Harris, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center's Chief of Social Work Services and the social work consultant to the Army Surgeon General.
It was Tucker-Harris' work that led to the creation of a master of social work program for Soldiers and Department of Army civilians. The first graduating class included only Army officers, and it graduated last month at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
In 2005, Tucker-Harris began to be concerned about dropping numbers of social workers within the medical corps.
Attrition was about eight to 10 a year; however, in 2005, there were 21 who left the corps.
"That raised concerns," she said.
As the sustained deployment cycle continues, the need for qualified social workers has only increased. Tucker-Harris determined the only way to meet the Army's need for social workers was to grow its own.
Tucker-Harris wrote a proposal which the Army Surgeon General was enthusiastic about seeing come to pass. Several details had to be worked out. Of the major details were where the school would be located and how it would be accredited.
The Surgeon General suggested it come under the Army Medical Department Center and Social, which officials there gladly embraced, she said.
For the accreditation piece, a school with a program already in place was the key.
"We needed to find a school that was already accredited," she said.
Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, N.C., wanted to partner with the Army.
Instead of mailing a proposal, a college representative boarded a plane and hand delivered it.
Tucker-Harris said the college already had a relationship with the Army since it is located near Fort Bragg, N.C. Many Soldiers and Family members have graduated from its programs.
"We felt it was a good fit," she said.
A two-year master of social work degree takes about two years in a normal setting, but because of the need, the Army collaborative program is an accelerated one in which candidates graduate in only 14 months.
Holidays and other breaks are removed, and instead of taking classes twice a week, these social work students take classes every day, she said.
Following graduation, they must complete a two-year internship. There are nine sites Army-wide for the social work graduates to complete their internships. Among them are Eisenhower, Fort Hood, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Fort Bragg.
Eisenhower's interns arrived about two weeks ago.
The internship is standardized across the nine sites with the interns completing specific rotations in areas such as substance abuse and combat operations stress.
Tucker-Harris said a second class began its studies at Fort Sam Houston this month.
The program has since been expanded to include noncommissioned officers with a bachelor degree and some Department of the Army civilians who have agreed to take a position at an installation that is considered hard to place.